I don’t blame you if you’re desperately trying to find a cure for your acne. Acne is embarrassing and unsightly, and severe forms of it can even cause lifelong scars. Any woman in her right mind would feel the urge to do whatever she could to get that clear complexion you see in the magazines. Unfortunately, one type of effective acne treatment can cause serious birth defects, and it should be ruled out for any woman hoping to conceive even just within the year. Isotretinoin is a medication that can cure the severe type of nodular acne that cannot be cured otherwise. It is usually sold under the brand name Accutane, and women who start taking it actually need to sign a waiver stating that they won’t get pregnant during the prescribed amount of time.
Avoid any type of medication with isotretinoin if you’re hoping to become pregnant someday soon. While your complexion might become clearer, your baby would be born with eye and ear defects, or even cleft palate or serious heart defects. Worse yet, women who take this type of medication soon before their pregnancy often have miscarriages or stillbirths.
Essentially, if you are of childbearing age, seek an alternative to isotretinoin. The risks are too great, and your being on the medication will limit your options if you become pregnant even accidentally. The birth defects are permanent and very serious. While acne is frustrating, it is nothing compared to the lifelong problems that your child might have from a heart defect or the serious and expensive surgery that would be required for a cleft palate.
If you are in your reproductive years and are sexually active, talk to your doctor about the alternatives if he or she prescribes a medication like Accutane with the active ingredient isotretinoin. Though some may not be quite as effective, they are worth a shot to avoid birth complications. Only if you are absolutely sure you won’t be having any children in the next few years should you take the pill; even then, pregnancies can still occur. However, people are famous for changing their mind frequently about starting a family, so don’t make a hasty decision of requesting Accutane. Keep your options open as much as possible and look at the whole picture when it comes to using an acne medication that has the capability of causing birth defects.
– Yvonne S. Thornton, M. D., M. P. H.