Is Red Light Therapy Safe During Pregnancy?

Pregnancy, while in and of itself usually a joyous occasion, isn’t a simple time for a woman by any means.

For 9 months straight, your body will be rearranging itself in a manner that should seem impossible. All to ensure the tiny creature inside you grows healthy and strong before they’re ready to come into this world.

Motherhood is a gift, but it is also quite possibly the most challenging undertaking you’ll ever have to experience because the changes your body will go through will not be easy.

Yes, you may read dozens of books about how to handle it all in the best way possible, but when push comes to shove, there’s always a little voice inside every expectant mother’s head, asking again and again, “is what I’m doing right for my baby? Am I doing it the right way? Should I be eating this, drinking this, taking this medicine – or will it harm my child?”

Unfortunately, often this little voice drives women to make extreme decisions like powering through pain, ignoring their discomfort, and avoiding taking medication. Not out of disregard for their own health, but due to the regard for the baby’s – usually, motivated by fear that taking specific medication or trying out a new treatment method can be detrimental to the little one growing inside them.

This can be extremely damaging in the long run, facilitating lasting effects from conditions that could be easily mitigated with proper attention. Add to it that the old-fashioned belief that giving birth to a child is intrinsically tied to pain, and the woman might not even be able to get the help they need, even if they ask for it. All because people out there still believe that certain side-effects are something a woman should suffer through while pregnant – simply because that’s how it’s always been.

Well, it’s not how it has always been, it’s not how it should be, and the biggest ammunition you have to protect yourself from similar missteps is knowledge. When you know what to expect and how to treat it – you’re armed.

Common Conditions Women Experience During Pregnancy

The list of conditions women experience during their pregnancy is long, varied, and individual. In other words, you’ll have little luck predicting your own experiences based on anecdotal evidence you’ll get from others. You might not experience anything aside from mild discomfort (stemming from that whole body rearranging itself), you might experience a few symptoms, or you might experience the entire bouquet (1).

Making predictions is hard, but it’s always helpful to know what you could be expecting.

The most common conditions experienced by women during pregnancy includes, but isn’t limited to:

  • Fatigue;
  • Morning sickness;
  • Lightheadedness;
  • High blood pressure;
  • Frequent urination;
  • Soreness;
  • Heartburn;
  • Constipation;
  • Joint and muscle pain;
  • Changes in skin (could swing either positively or negatively);
  • Anemia (iron deficiency);
  • Other vitamin and micronutrient deficiencies (particularly vitamins A, B6, and D, iodine, folate, and zinc);
  • Depression.

Can You Use Red Light Therapy While Pregnant? General Overview of RLT Use During Pregnancy

While Red Light Therapy (RLT) isn’t a panacea that can cure every condition you might suffer through during pregnancy, it can be an effective approach for a number of them.

Red Light Therapy is generally considered to be one of the safest treatment methods one can use during pregnancy (2). 

It’s non-invasive and painless but penetrates deep, going straight to the source of the problem. 

And while it can’t help you battle heartburn, constipation, or vitamin and micronutrient deficiencies, it can be an effective and – most notably, pregnancy-safe – treatment for skin conditions, joint and muscle pain, and, surprisingly, depression.

Red Light Therapy will render the most effective results when utilized according to the directions of a doctor that is familiar with the method and used under the supervision of a professional.

Acne During Pregnancy

The changes caused to your skin during pregnancy are usually due to hormonal changes. One of those changes will be an increase in hormones called androgens. As a result of this increase, your skin is likely to start producing more sebum.

This can, surprisingly, go two ways.

Some lucky women get what is usually referred to as “pregnancy glow” – due to increased blood flow and sebum production, their skin will take a dewy, rosy look. 

But if you were already prone to acne, or at least oily skin, chances are excess sebum production will amplify your problems due to oil clogging the pores and leading to inflammation, breakouts, and even bacteria. 

Using Red Light Therapy for Acne Treatment During Pregnancy

Red Light Therapy is one of the safest ways to treat acne during pregnancy (3).

RLT is particularly effective if your skin problems are due to inflammation due to its anti-inflammatory capabilities. It reaches deep under the skin to repair and soothe the tissue (4).

It may be somewhat less effective for bacteria-caused problems but will still render considerable results if you give it some time.

RLT skin treatment benefits are cumulative – meaning the more time you give it, the better the results.

It’s important not to ease your way into red light during the therapy sessions. Keep it to 2 sessions a week, about 20 minutes in length. Not only should you see improvement with your acne, but help with wrinkles and fine lines as well.

Joint and Muscle Pain During Pregnancy

Joint – and to a somewhat lesser extent, muscle – pains are a pretty common problem among pregnant ladies.

For the most part, it has a pretty straightforward reason: accelerated weight gain and growing baby bump putting excess strain on your muscles and joints. But other factors such as hormonal disbalance (particularly thyroid-related hormonal issues), pressure on the sciatic nerve, and even posture change can also play a part (5). 

All in all, the majority of women will experience some joint and/or muscle-related issues during pregnancy. It can range from mild stiffness to harsh joint pain, as well as aches in hips, knees, ankles as well as elbows, and fingers.

Using Red Light Therapy for Joint and Muscle Pain Treatment During Pregnancy

Due to its deep reach, RLT can penetrate deep under the skin and get to muscles and joints, directly influencing their condition.

Red light wavelengths influence natural responses in human tissue, enhancing cell performance. It also stimulates blood circulation, further helping with cell regeneration. 

As the result of RLT-induced improvement in blood circulation, oxygenation, cellular repair, and reproduction, you can expect the following:

  • Improved muscle relaxation;
  • Relieving muscle spasms
  • Relieving joint and muscle pain
  • Accelerating injury recovery. 

Again, RLT effects are cumulative, so rather than short-term effects, you should expect to see improvement in your pain levels over the course of several sessions. The more time you invest, the better your results should be due to continuous improvement in blood flow, oxygenation, and cell repair.

Depression During Pregnancy

Thankfully, these days postpartum depression is quite widely discussed. Unfortunately, depression experienced during pregnancy isn’t talked about nearly as much.

The sad truth is 1 in 10 women experience depression during pregnancy – that we know of. Real numbers might be significantly higher, both due to women avoiding telling doctors about their depression, and mistaken it for hormone-induced moodiness (6). 

(While changes in your hormonal specter may certainly influence your mood, make you prone to tears, or impede your ability to focus on tasks at hand, it is certainly not the same as chronic 

depression experienced by patients during pregnancy).

It should be noted that not only is pregnancy-period depression dangerous in and of itself, it is associated with higher complication risks – but it may have long-lasting consequences, bleeding into postpartum depression after the baby comes.

Yet, treating depression in a pregnant patient isn’t easy. Most psychopharmacological agents come with side effects as is, and the fetus being involved complicates things further.

To bring down the risks to the fetus’s well-being to the minimum, doctors often have to tread very lightly. This increases the risks of the expectant mother not getting the help as quickly as they need.

That’s where light therapy comes in.

Using Red Light Therapy for Depression Treatment During Pregnancy

Both bright light therapy and red light therapy have been tested as treatment mechanisms for seasonal affective depression and nonseasonal chronic depression – and, according to data, both have shown potential as an effective treatment mechanism.

While the trials usually concentrate on bright light therapy, red light therapy was used as a placebo for the control group. Over the course of the 5-week trial, both the bright light group and the red light group showed significant improvement. It should be noted that no major sociodemographic or clinical differences were found between the two groups (7).

These results indicate that RLT can be an effective antidepressant treatment for vulnerable groups who have to tread lightly when it comes to traditional treatment that uses psychopharmacological agents – such as pregnant women.

That said, you won’t be risking anything by attempting to use red light therapy to treat your depression. As it’s safe for both the patient and the fetus, painless and beneficial in other aspects – the worse that happens is the result won’t be as quick as you need.

(Again, RLT effects are cumulative. In case of severe depression, you may need some combination to alleviate symptoms short-term while waiting for RLT to render more long-term results).

Conclusion

Red Light Therapy can be helpful with treating multiple conditions that can show themselves during pregnancy.

Most notably – skin conditions (particularly those caused by inflammation, and to a lesser extent – those caused by bacteria), muscle spasms and pains, joint pain, and inflammation (due to its anti-inflammatory capabilities, stimulating blood circulation and cell regeneration), as well as, according to most recent data, depression.

Red Light Therapy is absolutely safe during pregnancy is used in moderation under a supervision of a trained professional.

Currently, guidelines recommend using RLT at the frequency of 2 in a week, with sessions lasting between 15 and 30 minutes.

Written By Matthew Caldera

Matthew Caldera is the founder and CEO of nuYOU LED, a leading provider of red light therapy devices. As a dedicated biohacker and RLT specialist, Matthew aims to make science-backed information about red light therapy and self-improvement more accessible to everyone. To achieve his goal, Matthew uses up-to-date research materials and converts them into easily digestible articles, answering frequently asked questions of those interested in the power of red light.

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References:

  1. Leisa Bailey, MD; Family Doctor; “Changes in Your Body During Pregnancy: First Trimester”; Last Updated February 2021

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2. Katie Rose, NMD; Naturopathic Doctor News & Review; “Acne During Pregnancy: Safe Approaches To Treatment”; Last Updated May 2016

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3. Healthline; “6 All-Natural Pregnancy Acne Remedies”; Last Updated February 2019

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4. Hamblin MR. Mechanisms and applications of the anti-inflammatory effects of photobiomodulation. AIMS Biophys. 2017;4(3):337-361. doi:10.3934/biophy.2017.3.337

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5. Dr Aruna Kalra; The Economic Times; “Experiencing Joint Pain During Pregnancy? It May Not Be Arthritis”; Last Updated October 2018

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6. United Kingdom National Health Service; “Overview – Postnatal Depression”; Last Updated December 2018

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7. Heidi Anne Duerr, MPH; Contemporary OB/GYN; “Light Therapy Is Safe, Effective Treatment for Depression in Pregnancy”; Last Updated April 2011

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