Skin breakouts (acne) during pregnancy – what causes them and how can I treat them?

Elevated hormone levels during pregnancy effect a woman’s body in a variety of ways.  One of the most common and most noticeable ways is skin breakouts (acne). 

Acne during pregnancy can be treated in a variety of ways.  There are several medications that are used to treat acne outside of pregnancy that are typically recommended against using during pregnancy.  These include Accutane, Retin-A and Tetracycline. 

Accutane (isotretinoin) is an oral medication available only by prescription.  There is some indication that Accutane may increase the risk of miscarriage and infant death.  Other studies have shown that about 25-35% of infants born to women using Accutane during the first trimester showed a pattern of birth defects, including heart defects, central nervous system defects and craniofacial defects.  You should not use Accutane while you are pregnant, trying to become pregant or nursing.  Your doctor can recommend a timeline for you to start using Accutane after your baby is born.

Retina-A (tretinoin) is a skin cream that is applied to treat acne.  It is only available by prescription.  Less than 10% of Retin-A passes into the mother’s blood stream and less than that crosses the placenta.  However, Retina-A carries warnings for women who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant.  There are few studies on Retina-A, so you should consult with your physician before using Retina-A while you are pregnant.

Tetracycline is an oral antibiotic used to treat respiratory infections as well as acne.  Some testing indicates that tetracycline may cause some inhibition of bone growth and discoloration of teeth in the fetus.  Tetracycline has been approved for use during breastfeeding, but studies are limited on the use of tetracycline by pregnant women. 

There are many over-the-counter medications, cleansers and treatments for acne.  Benzoyl peroxide, a main ingredient in many of these products, has been recommended as safe during pregnancy.  Other products may contain salicylic acids, which are not recommended as safe.  You should check with your physician before using any of these. 

Perhaps the most effective way to combat acne during pregnancy are the tried and true methods of combating acne at any time.  Make sure to follow a healthy regimen of cleanliness to control bacteria, exercise daily to stimulate circulation to all parts of the body including the skin, and eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables that have been thoroughly washed.

Skin breakouts (acne) during pregnancy – what causes them and how can I treat them?