Preparing to welcome a new baby into the world is an exciting time. It’s also a time when it feels like there’s a never ending list of things you can’t use or consume being thrown at you. Deli meat, sushi, raw cheese, the occasional cocktail…science tells us that certain things just aren’t compatible with growing a new life, and the little sacrifices are well worth it in the end.
At some point early in your pregnancy, your doctor probably gave you a list of these things to avoid. It included the items mentioned above and few others, such as off-limits medication. As extensive as this list seems, it isn’t all inclusive, meaning that it’s always important to check the safety of anything you ingest or apply to your skin during those precious nine months.
Hydroquinone is one of those ingredients that flies under the radar of many obstetricians and midwives because it’s not widely used. So, let’s talk about Hydroquinone and why it’s best to stay away from it during pregnancy.
Using Hydroquinone While Pregnant – Is It Safe?
The short answer to this question is no, but it’s important to understand why it’s best to not use Hydroquinone while pregnant.
One of the responsibilities of the FDA is to assess the safety of substances when used by pregnant and nursing women. Depending on their findings, they assign each with a pregnancy category rating. The scale is A, B, C, D and X. Substances that fall into either category A or B are considered to be generally safe for pregnant or lactating women.
The FDA has designated Hydroquinone a pregnancy category C substance, meaning that reproductive studies done on animals have shown to have adverse side effects on the fetus, but that there is a lack of well controlled studies in the human population. Keeping in mind that the dosage used in animal studies typically exceeds that of human consumption, a physician may guide a patient in deciding if the potential benefits warrant the use of the drug during pregnancy, despite the potential risks.
Considering that the primary use of Hydroquinone is cosmetic, with no medical indication, it’s usually advised to avoid Hydroquinone in pregnancy due to the potential risks.
How Can Hydroquinone Be Passed to Baby From the Mother?
Hydroquinone is a skin lightening treatment used to treat a variety of hyperpigmentation conditions, including Melasma, which frequently first shows up during pregnancy.
Melasma is also not-so-affectionately referred to as the mask of pregnancy because the fluctuations of hormones in pregnancy result in pigmentation issues that often affect the forehead, nose, upper lip and chin. Melasma generally disappears on its own – although slowly, after a woman has given birth.
It seems unfair that just when you might need Hydroquinone the most that it’s off limits, but here’s why it should stay on your shelf and off your skin.
Hydroquinone is a topically applied skin lightening agent. Your skin has a naturally built in barrier that functions to keep toxins and bacteria out of your body. Topically applied products, like Hydroquinone, are designed to move past this barrier and into the epidermis where they are then easily absorbed into tiny blood vessels and eventually make their way through your blood stream. Studies have indicated that within minutes of application, small amounts of Hydroquinone can be detected in urine.
As noted, there is a lack of sufficient scientific studies to say with certainty whether hydroquinone is passed along to the baby during pregnancy, however the molecular weight and size of the Hydroquinone molecule is small enough that it could theoretically pass through the placental barrier easily.
When to Stop Hydroquinone Before Pregnancy
If you have discovered that you are pregnant while using Hydroquinone, it is best to stop using it immediately and speak with your doctor regarding any questions you have about your health and the use skin lightening products.
If you’re thinking about becoming pregnant, as a precaution it’s best to discontinue Hydroquinone use before you conceive. It’s generally recommended that people using Hydroquinone cycle off of it every three months or so and give themselves a little break.
This same general rule would apply to preparing for pregnancy. If possible, discontinue use at least 1-2 months before trying to conceive just to make sure that your system is clear of it. Again, this is only precautionary, and you should communicate any concerns directly to your doctor.
Is It Safe to Use Hydroquinone When Breastfeeding?
At this time, Hydroquinone has not been studied during breastfeeding. According to current guidelines, the ingredient is not contraindicated during breastfeeding. Still, most professionals will say that the long term used of Hydroquinone in nursing mothers isn’t medically warranted, and therefore nursing mothers might want to avoid using it as a precaution.
While there haven’t been any specific negative effects noted with Hydroquinone and breastfeeding, it’s also worth mentioning that new mothers, nursing or not, should use caution in using Hydroquinone on areas where skin to skin contact with their infants might occur due to possibility of transference.
Take Care of Yourself and Your Baby
We know that hyperpigmentation can be challenging to live with, and non-prescription strength Hydroquinone is one of the most effective ways of addressing the problem. Still, there is a time and a place for everything and while you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, is a time that’s best spent nurturing yourself and your new baby. Hydroquinone can wait, and when it’s time to start using it again, get maximum results by choosing a high quality product with the perfect blend of complimentary ingredients for your skin.
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