Last February, while miserable with morning sickness, I booked a holiday to Greece. It worked a treat in providing me with something to look forward to as I battled the trials of pregnancy. But now the time has come — and much as I can’t wait to feel the sun on my skin, I’m asking myself is it safe to flaunt your burgeoning bump in the sun?

The destination

During pregnancy your body temperature is higher, which makes you more sensitive to heat. For this reason, it might be best to avoid scorching holiday destinations, especially as we aren’t exactly used to tropical temperatures! There are also travel vaccinations and malaria tablets to consider. In the UK, the NHS is advising that it’s best to avoid travelling to countries where these are necessary — if at all possible. I’d also avoid countries where the zika virus is rife. But wherever you travel, make sure you take your maternity notes as a precaution.

The flight

The idea of being crammed into a tiny plane seat for hours on end isn’t exactly appealing right now. Long-haul flights are uncomfortable enough without a bump to squeeze in front of your food tray. Pregnancy increases the risk of deep vein thrombosis (DVT) too and you are more prone to swollen legs and feet. If you’re on any flight, stay hydrated and do simple exercises such as ankle circles. At least that annoying pregnancy symptom of constantly needing the loo will come in handy to get you up and out of your seat!

You also need a doctor’s note to fly as you approach your third trimester. Airline rules vary, so check before you fly.

Be sun safe

ALL the usual sun rules apply — wear a high factor sun cream, stay out of the midday sun and drink lots of water — but you’re likely to be heat sensitive, so be a bit more diligent than normal, says midwife Madelaine Gohrs. ‘Lying in the hot sun for hours on end increases the risk of overheating and dehydration — not good for mother or baby!’

Be cautious about sun exposure in early pregnancy, too. Studies suggest a possible link between exposure to UV rays and low levels of folate acid, explains Madelaine. ‘Folic acid can be broken down by the UV rays,’ she says. ‘In the first few weeks of pregnancy, high levels of folic acid can help to protect the baby from developing defects of the spinal column and brain (spina bifida). It’s better to avoid intense exposure to UV light at this time.’ Further research is needed to ascertain the level of risk. Sun exposure also makes cholasma look more obvious.

Also known as the ‘mask of pregnancy’, between 50 and 75% of pregnant women develop darker patches on the face due to a rise in oestrogen levels, which stimulates melanin production in the body. And who wants any more of that? A wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses and SPF 50 are the way to go. So pack your bikini and enjoy that relaxing break before your baby comes

Bump to Birth column, Irish Daily Mail, May 10, 2016