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About Pregnancy and Acne Medications

About Pregnancy and Acne Medications About Pregnancy and Acne Medications


Hormonal rushes from pregnancy can cause adult acne. While acne is unsightly, some acne medications are harmful to a developing fetus and cannot be used during pregnancy. It's often safest to terminate the use of medications prior to becoming pregnant, so consult with both your obstetrician and dermatologist prior to treating acne during pregnancy.


The U.S. Food and Drug Administration classes medications into five different categories for use during pregnancy. These categories are: (A) studies show no risk in any trimester, (B) animal studies show abnormalities, but risk to the fetus is remote, (C) studies have not been conducted on humans, risk to the fetus is possible (D) there is demonstrated risk to the fetus, though benefit may outweigh any risks and (X) evidence of risk to the fetus is documented.


According to the American Pregnancy Association, Accutane, Retin-A and tetracycline should be avoided during pregnancy. Accutane (also referred to generically as isotretinoin) is associated with birth defects and increased risk of miscarriage and infant death. Retin-A (also referred to generically as tretinoin)is a topical treatment, with little potential exposure to the fetus. However, it has not been extensively studied in people, and is classed as a category C medicine, suggesting it carries risk. Tetracycline has been associated with discoloration of a fetus' teeth as it develops in infancy, as well as bone growth inhibition.


Some over-the-counter medications are acceptable, however. Products that use benzoyl peroxide appear to be safe, according to the American Pregnancy Association. However, products that contain salicyclic acid, which is classed by the FDA as an OTC treatment, is best avoided, according to the American Pregnancy Association. It is a member of the aspirin family and has been associated with birth defects and pregnancy complications, according to

Time Frame

If you are planning to become pregnant, cease using Accutane or Retin-A at least one month prior to stopping the use of birth control to ensure that it has completely left your system. Until that time, it is absolutely critical that you use two forms of birth control while on the medication to ensure that you do not become pregnant. In fact, most doctors will not prescribe Accutane to a fertile woman unless she has taken a pregnancy test that is negative one week prior to starting Accutane and receives counseling about how birth control methods she is currently using might fail, according to the American Pregnancy Association. In addition, Accutane must be started at a specified time in the menstrual cycle to further avoid the potential for pregnancy. Accutane and Retin-A may not be used while breastfeeding. Tetracycline may be prescribed while breastfeeding, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Expert Insight

If you are concerned about medicines or other potential exposures while pregnant or nursing, contact the Organization of Teratology Information Specialists (OTIS) (see Resources). They provide a comprehensive database of research to help medical practitioners and families understand potential risks and treatments.

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