Red light therapy is a treatment that is used for various purposes, such as to improve the skin’s appearance (by reducing stretch marks and cellulite), to heal wounds faster and treat acne. It’s used to treat a wide range of medical conditions.
A question we often get asked by our clients is whether it’s safe to continue their usual therapy routine during pregnancy. Research has not found any risks associated with RLT when pregnant, however, there is not enough research to declare it safe under all conditions.
Circumstances differ so it’s best to consult your doctor when starting a program during pregnancy. Continue reading to learn how red light therapy works and how it can be used while pregnant.
To understand how infrared light therapy in pregnancy is safe, first, let us look at how red light therapy works;
Red light therapy uses a panel of bulbs that emit red light, which is placed close to the problem site on your body. Red light has long wavelengths, from 630nm-640nm and carries low levels of energy. The long wavelengths penetrate the skin easily and help repair tissues.
It’s important to note that red light is not simply a bulb that is tinted red. Although red-tinted lighting may also seem soothing, it doesn’t have the exact wavelengths of 630nm-640nm and therefore does not hold the same properties either.
What Does Red Light Therapy Do?
Red light stimulates your cells to produce more energy, which helps them work more efficiently and rejuvenate themselves. Since red light has low wavelengths, it penetrates our skin easily to stimulate the mitochondria in our cells. Mitochondria are small bodies that float freely in our cells and produce energy by breaking down glucose (from our food) with oxygen, into ATP. ATP is the ‘energy currency’ of our body. Whenever we eat, sleep, move around or even breathe, ATP powers us. There are thousands of mitochondria in our cells whose sole job is to produce energy for our bodies.
Red light improves their functioning and this increased energy is used during ‘red light therapy’ for multiple purposes, including;
- For skin therapy, to reduce fine lines and wrinkles
- At the site of injuries to improve wound healing and help repair tissues
- To reverse sun damage
- To improve hair growth in those that have alopecia andrecia
- To help reduce the appearance of scars, etc
How Is Red Light Therapy Used During Pregnancy?
Red light therapy is used for the same purposes by pregnant women and especially for treating depression.
- During pregnancy, stretch marks are likely to occur on the belly, thighs and hips as you gain weight. Since stretch marks occur when the collagen and elastin in our skin are unable to keep up with our body's rapid weight gain, red light therapy is an effective way to help the collagen and elastin repair quickly.
- During pregnancy, the buildup of fat cells under the skin results in cellulite. As the fat cells grow, the fibrous bands that connect your skin to the muscle underneath tighten, pulling down on your skin. This results in a bumpy appearance. Red light therapy can help reduce the formation of this bumpy appearance. Unlike other treatments such as laser and creams, RLT doesn’t just reduce the appearance of cellulite, but it slows down the formation of cellulite by increasing collagen production, improving blood flow to the area and boosting the lymphatic system.
This type of treatment is administered through red light panels. The treatment can be administered at home or at a clinic. Buying a red light panel for home use is cost-effective, as you can use it for multiple problem areas and share it among family members. It also saves you time. Many women choose to start red light therapy after giving birth. Consult with your doctor if you wish to start your routine during pregnancy.
How Do I Administer Red Light Therapy During Pregnancy?
The routine to administer red light therapy during pregnancy is the same as usual.
- Take pictures of the before (if you’re treating acne, wrinkles, stretch marks or cellulite)
- Place the panel around half a meter from the problem area and wait 10-20 minutes
- If the problem site is close to the face, it’s a good idea to wear protective eyewear ( though red light does not contain UVA or UVB risks)
- Continue the process 3-5 times a week, and compare results after every month
Red light therapy is also used to treat depression in pregnant and postpartum women. One in 10 pregnant women experience depression with severe risks. Depression has major health risks for the mother, the fetus and the family. Often psychotropic medications alongside psychotherapy are administered. However, the biggest concern with medications is the risk of birth defects from exposure to antidepressants. Overall, the risk of birth defects and other problems is low, but it can be further minimized by reducing the dosage and supplementing the treatment with light therapy. Light therapy is a treatment for seasonal affective disorder, and on the same mechanism, it can also be used as a potential treatment for nonseasonal depression.
Red light therapy is administered either by using red light panels or by using a BioLight a full-spectrum light.
Red Light Therapy While Pregnant For Depression:
To treat depression, the red light panels are placed close to the forehead. When red light is absorbed by the head, the wavelengths reach the brain and affect brain cells directly. They are absorbed by the mitochondria which results in a boost in cerebral metabolism, improvement in neuroplasticity, and a decrease in inflammation.
Another less-intensive method to treat less-intense mood shifts is to use a Biolight. BioLight isn’t exactly a treatment for depression, it’s simply indoor lighting that produces the same wavelengths as the sun at different times of the day. This keeps our body’s circadian rhythm and hormonal rhythm in tune with nature. Learn More about how this full-wavelength lighting solution is incredibly effective for people experiencing seasonal affective disorder and the general mood shifts which are normal in pregnancy.
Is Using Red Light Therapy While Pregnant Safe?
- In a study, by scientists from the Netherlands, published in the National Library of Medicine, not only was red light therapy found to be ‘highly safe’ for the mother, but also safe for the unborn child. The Erasmus University Medical Centre Rotterdam cited it to be ‘a promising treatment for pregnant women with depressive disorder’.
- In a 2011 Swiss study, a 5-week light therapy program for pregnant women significantly improved depression. The study cited light therapy to have ‘minimal side effects for the mother and no known risk for the unborn child.’
- A 2019 research examined the literature on laser surgery used by pregnant from 1960 -to 2017. It found that ‘cutaneous laser treatment during pregnancy is safe for both mother and fetus’ and there should theoretically be no risk of fetal laser exposure from commonly used cutaneous lasers. Since red light therapy has lower wavelengths than commonly used cutaneous lasers (such as for laser hair removal), one need not worry about fetal exposure from RLT.
There you have it! The initial findings regarding red light therapy are promising- no risks have been found associated with it. However, there’s not enough research on the topic so we would advise you to consult with your doctor if using red light therapy panels. Using a BioLight, however, is 100% safe and effective, if you’re looking for a milder option.
Now comes the question of buying red light therapy devices. Beware! All light therapy panels are not created equal.
Here’s What To Look For When Buying Red Light Therapy Devices:
- The wavelength of the device should be from 660nm to 880nm. Check for the spectrum report on the manufacturer's website. All of BlockBlueLight’s therapy panels are tested by a lab-grade spectrometer.
- The panel should be anti-flicker- flickering will strain your eyes
- The panel should produce minimum heat- if it heats up you won’t be able to stay close long enough to get the desired benefits.