Tretinoin During Pregnancy

Tretinoin During Pregnancy

Tretinoin, also known as Retin-A, is a topical vitamin-A derivative used as a prescription-strength acne treatment. It is important to consider the effects of using tretinoin while pregnant, since the medication is not recommended for this period due to concerns about potential risks to the unborn baby.

Understanding Tretinoin

Tretinoin is the generic form of the brand-name drug Retin-A, and it’s used to treat mild to moderate acne. It’s a derivative of vitamin A, and it’s applied to the skin’s surface to unclog pores and reduce breakouts. Tretinoin works by increasing turnover to the outer layers of the skin (epidermis) and forms collagen fibers to reduce wrinkles and lines.

Tretinoin and Pregnancy

Tretinoin should not be used during pregnancy due to the potential risks posed to a developing baby. Studies have produced contradictory results regarding the level of risk to the baby if a pregnant woman uses tretinoin. In some cases, the medication has been linked to skull deformities in unborn babies, however the results of these studies are inconclusive.

Risks of Tretinoin Compared to Other Treatments

Certain acne medications, including retinoids such as tretinoin, have greater risks to an unborn child than other therapies. However, the risk of these treatments depends on the dosage, frequency and route of administration. In comparison to other acne medications such as antibiotics, the use of tretinoin during pregnancy is more likely to put the baby at risk.

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Alternatives to Tretinoin

If you’re pregnant and need an acne treatment, there are alternative medications you can use, including azelaic acid, topical antibiotics, benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid. For mild cases of acne, topical or oral contraceptives can be used.

It’s important to speak with your doctor or dermatologist who can advise you on the best course of action.


Due to the potential risks posed to an unborn baby, it’s important to avoid using tretinoin during pregnancy, and instead speak to your doctor or dermatologist about alternative treatments.


  • Reyzábal, Rosalba, Claudia Hernández-Tinoco, and Jerónimo Santiago-Garza. “Use of Tretinoin during Pregnancy.” International Journal of Dermatology, vol. 56, no. 9, 2017, pp. 98–100., doi:10.1111/ijd.13484.
  • Simon, Steven D., et al. “Risk for Major Congenital Malformations after Maternal Exposure to Topical Retinoids during Pregnancy.” Dermatologic Therapy, vol. 29, no. 3, 2016, pp. 228–233., doi:10.1111/dth.12347.
  • Mayo Clinic Staff. “Acne.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 8 Mar. 2019,

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