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Tretinoin and Pregnancy

by Ella Goodman 07 Feb 2020

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. It has even been shown to help with hair growth! 

Because it’s applications are many, the demographic of tretinoin users is quite diverse. H, 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 prescription skincare products are 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, it presents no risk to the unborn or nursing child. However, topically applied medications, such as Retin-A and other brands of tretinoin, are considered to not be completely safe for use during pregnancy. Your skin is an organ, and like any organ, it is connected to the rest of your body. Skincare products typically have less of an impact than the same medications taken in oral form, but that doesn’t mean that these cosmetic products are completely safe. 

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. When you have major skin concerns, it’s easy to forget to pay attention to skin care ingredients in your eye creams and topical use creams. However, pregnant women need to remember that treating acne or dry skin is minor compared to other concerns that could occur during early pregnancy.

Tretinoin Use for Pregnant Women

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. In this case, testing the medication for corresponding adverse effects in humans would be unethical, so we’re left to rely on clinical analysis on animals and trust doctors to weigh the risk/benefit profile of use.

Tretinoin, in the topical application, is not viewed as a life -saving medication. In high doses, tretinoin does more than just produce normal skin. It seeps deep into skin cells, and, as a result, can impact the rest of the body.

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.

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.

Birth Defects and Other Potential Risks of Tretinoin 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-administered  isotretinoin. Although similar to topical retinoids, oral retinoids aren’t exactly the same. 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, which lasts 17 days from the day of conception, that 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 to your developing baby.

Although there is not enough evidence to determine how topical retinoids impact pregnancy in humans, oral retinoids and oral isotretinoin use has been linked to increased risks for unborn children, including:

  • Cleft palate
  • Developmental and intellectual disabilities
  • Fetal retinoid syndrome
  • Ventricular septal defects
  • Hypoplastic left heart syndrome
  • Thymus gland problems
  • Retinoic acid embryopathy
  • Other rare disorders

Tretinoin use has also been shown to cause a rapid increase in white blood cells. This can lead to problems for pregnant women as well as their unborn children. In fact, topical tretinoin is associated with a number of concerns for pregnant women, including impacts on the lymphatic system and the central nervous system. Certain facial nerves have been shown to be impacted by topical tretinoin use, causing a condition called “ataxia,” which includes slurred speech and poor muscle control. 

That said, if you’ve used tretinoin before you discovered you were pregnant, it’s best not to worry. Although there have been some birth defects reported by women who used topical retinoids during pregnancy, the number of birth defects reported isn’t much greater than the 3-5% of birth defects reported as a result of typical pregnancies and is not considered statistically significant.

Keep in mind that the noted effects of tretinoin come from studies on animals , which aren’t always accurate representations of reactions in humans, and from oral administration. Although it’s best to be cautious with tretinoin if you’re of childbearing age or looking to become pregnant, if you’ve been using a topical application and discover that you’re pregnant, simply stop using it and have a discussion with your doctor about your use of skin products during pregnancy.

Tretinoin and Pregnancy, Are There Safe Alternatives?

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? 

If you’ve been using tretinoin to treat acne, dark skin, skin aging, or other skin conditions, it can be worrisome to think about going back to over the counter skin care products that may not achieve the same great results.

When you’re pregnant, your health and the health of your baby should always be the number one priority. Since prescription retinoids have not been shown to be safe during pregnancy in clinical trials, it’s best for pregnant patients and women of childbearing age to avoid these beauty products. 

Fortunately, it’s possible to achieve results that are on par with tretinoin but with fewer side effects.

Benefits of Admire My Skin Retinoid Cream Over Prescription Retinoids

Unlike Retin-A, Admire My Skin Clinically Effective Retinoid Cream doesn’t rely on high doses of tretinoin to provide skin benefits. Instead, this skin care product uses healthy, proven ingredients in combination with low doses of retinoids to improve your skin. These ingredients, which have been shown to be safe during pregnancy, include: 

  • Glycolic acid: Ideal for improving skin, glycolic acid is an exfoliant. As such, glycolic acid increases skin cell turnover and boosts collagen production. 
  • Salicylic acid: Salicylic acid helps your skin shed dead skin cells. As a result, salicylic acid can reduce redness and inflammation in your skin. Salicylic acid may especially help with red spots and splotches that show up during pregnancy.
  • Alpha hydroxy acids: Works by removing the top layer of dead skin cells and promoting skin firmness.
  • Lactic acid: Improves skin firmness and helps smooth out wrinkles and fine lines.
  • Vitamin C: Repairs damaged skin cells and reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Vitamin C has also been associated with reduced dark spots.
  • Zinc oxide: Reduces large pores, normalizes oil production, and helps treat skin conditions like rosacea.
  • Hyaluronic acid: Reduces visibility of fine lines. Hyaluronic acid is also great for people with dry skin, as it both hydrates the skin and helps the skin retain moisture.
  • Azelaic acid: Kills bacteria that causes acne and reduces the production of acne-causing keratin.
  • Sodium hydroxide: Balances the skin’s PH levels.
  • Benzoyl peroxide: Kills bacteria underneath the skin and helps the skin shed dead cells.
  • Titanium dioxide: Provides sun protection by reflecting and scattering UVA and UVB rays. 

These vegan and cruelty-free acne products fold easily into your skin care routine. Just smooth a little bit of cream into your skin once a day after cleaning. 

To be absolutely on the safe side, it’s best to have a conversation with your healthcare provider before using milder alternatives such as Admire My Skin Clinically Effective Retinoid Cream.

Milder Retinol Alternative During Pregnancy

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