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Retin-A & Pregnancy

By Rachel Nall ; Updated July 18, 2017

When a woman is pregnant, fluctuating hormones can cause an excess production of oil that results in acne breakouts. If a woman were not pregnant, this could be a simple fix, using a medication, such as Retin-A. Many women also use this medication to reduce the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines. However, because the application of certain topical medications can result in adverse effects for a developing baby, it's important to discuss any medications applied or taken orally with your physician, including Retin-A.


Retin-A is a form of acne treatment, known as retinol, which is a pure form of vitamin A. When applied topically, Retin-A helps to encourage skin exfoliation, meaning dead skin cells that otherwise would fill the pores and cause acne outbreaks are sloughed away. Retin-A also is a keratolytic agent, which helps to clear away the oil, sebum, dead skin cells and other substances that can clog the pores.

As a wrinkle fighter, Retin-A boosts the production of collagen fibers. Added collagen can make the skin appear more supple and smooth, according to DermaDoctor. The product also encourages cell turnover, which helps make the skin look more wrinkle-free, too.


When Retin-A is applied to the skin, less than 10 percent is passed into your bloodstream, according to the American Pregnancy Association. An even smaller percentage of this is passed on to the baby in your uterus. Still, the risk is high enough that the medication carries a warning to those who are pregnant and those who want to become pregnant.


Retin-A might be more highly absorbed under certain conditions, including places where the skin is broken, where an excess amount of the product has been applied or when it covers a large portion of the skin, according to the Organization of Teratology Information Specialists. When used in small amounts, Retin-A is less of a threat to a baby in utero.


Isoretinoin, a medication similar to Retin-A--which also is known as tretinoin--has adverse effects on fetal development when the organs are forming during the fourth to seventh weeks of pregnancy, according to the Organization of Teratology Information Specialists. For this reason, your doctor might permit you to use small amounts of Retin-A in the second or third trimesters.


Talk with your doctor before using any prescribed medication during pregnancy, according to Because your doctor knows your unique health situation as well as other medications you are taking, she can recommend the best course of treatment for you.

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