Tretinoin, often recognized by its brand name Retin-A, is a commonly prescribed skincare medication. Each year, well over a million prescriptions are issued for tretinoin in all of its brand name formulas. Many skincare experts are quick to recommend tretinoin for a range of skincare issues, from problematic acne to fighting off the hands of time for aging skin. Because it’s applications are many, the demographic of tretinoin users is quite diverse, however women, of all ages, are the primary users.
As with the case of any medication a woman uses during her childbearing years, it’s important to fully understand whether the medication is safe to use while trying to conceive, during pregnancy, and while breastfeeding. These details are important even if you’re not intentionally trying to become pregnant.
With tretinoin, there is the perception that because it’s applied topically, that it presents no risk to the unborn or nursing child. Topically applied medications, such as Retin-A and other brands of tretinoin, are considered to not be completely safe for use during pregnancy. If you’re a woman who is using tretinoin, here’s the important information you need to know.
Pregnancy and Its Effect on Your Skin
It’s no secret that a woman’s body goes through many changes during pregnancy to support the baby growing inside of her. Hormones are going through major fluctuations, and this can mean pure havoc for your skin. You know that rosy glow that everyone thinks is the classic, hallmark sign of pregnancy? Blame it on shifting hormones and dilated blood vessels. For many women, the effects of these hormones do more than produce a radiant glow. They also cause acne, sensitivities, changes in skin type, and a particular type of discoloration known as melasma.
These changes in your complexion can be concerning, and you’ll no doubt want relief. However, the last thing you should do is to reach for that tube of Retin-A you were using before pregnancy or take a well-meaning friend’s advice to sample a bit of theirs.
Tretinoin Use Before and During Pregnancy
Tretinoin is considered a Class C pregnancy drug. This means that it has been shown to have an adverse effect on the fetus in animal studies, however there is a lack of adequate, well-controlled studies in humans. In this case, testing the medication for corresponding adverse effects in humans would be unethical, so we’re left to rely on animals studies and trust doctors to weigh the risk/benefit profile of use.
Tretinoin, in the topical application, is not viewed as a life saving medication. Although it’s impossible to speak for every single case, it is highly likely that a doctor will tell a woman that is either pregnant or hoping to become pregnant to cease tretinoin use. The concerns about tretinoin and pregnancy are significant enough that it’s even recommended women take extra precautions against becoming pregnant while using it. Tretinoin is considered a teratogen, which is an agent that is known or highly suspected to cause negative effects, or malformation, of a fetus.
Potential Risks of Tretinoin Use During Pregnancy
Due to the potential risks of tretinoin during pregnancy, and the amount of time that it stays in your system, it’s recommended that women avoid becoming pregnant for at least a month after discontinuing the medication. It’s equally important to note that many of the studies on tretinoin have included the use of orally administrated isotretinoin. When a woman ingests isotretinoin, the amount that is delivered into their system is markedly higher than what is absorbed through the skin with topical applications.
One of the main areas of concern with use of tretinoin during pregnancy is its potential effects during the early embryonic stage. It’s during this stage, that lasts 17 days from the day of conception, cells of the embryo are busy differentiating into what will eventually be all the major organs. There is concern that tretinoin exposure during this phase might cause fetal malformation.
That said, if you’ve used tretinoin before you discovered you were pregnant, it’s best not to worry. Keep in mind that the noted effects of tretinoin come from animal studies, which aren’t always accurate representations of reactions in humans, and from oral administration. If you’ve been using a topical application, simple stop using it and have a discussion with your doctor about any concerns you may have.
Alternatives to Tretinoin
What if you absolutely love what tretinoin has done for your skin and worry that taking a break while pregnant will lead to a recurrence of the skin issues you’ve worked so hard to remedy? Fortunately, it’s possible to achieve results that are on par with tretinoin but with fewer side effects.
When you’re pregnant, your health and the health of your baby should always be the number one priority. To be absolutely on the safe side, it’s best to have a conversation with your doctor before using milder alternatives such as Admire My Skin Clinically Effective Retinoid Cream.