Acne is a common skin complaint during pregnancy and may persist even after child birth and during the course of breast feeding. The main contributing factor to any case of acne, whether during pregnancy or not, is a hormonal cause. The hormonal fluctuation and high levels of estrogen and progesterone, necessary during pregnancy, may contribute to the development of pimples during pregnancy.
Acne Before Pregnancy
Acne, if pre-existing prior to pregnancy, may settle or even totally resolve during pregnancy. However many pregnant women with pre-existing acne experience an aggravation. The oil gland (sebaceous gland) increases production of oil (sebum) and when this combines with dead skin cells, dirt or cosmetic applications, it will form a plug that will block the pore from which the oil exits onto the skin surface. This will form a papule (pimple) and if it gets infected by bacteria, it will become a large, cyst like pimple.
Myths relating to acne during pregnancy are usually unfounded. Whether you are pregnant with a male baby or eat unusual foods during pregnancy as a result of cravings has no bearing on developing acne during pregnancy.
Acne and the Oral Contraceptive Pill
One of the treatment options for acne is the oral contraceptive pill, which mimics pregnancy so that the body will not release an egg cell (ovum). One would think that pregnancy would therefore settle every case of acne, however this is not always the case. In fact, the converse is true. The female sex hormones exist at high levels during the course of pregnancy and this can affect the oil production on the skin as well. Women who had acne prior to falling pregnant are more prone to this aggravation.
Acne After Childbirth, Breastfeeding
After childbirth, acne that started up during pregnancy may not resolve. If breastfeeding, the hormonal change may persist for a period of time and this continues to contribute to the acne. However, breastfeeding women should not consider stopping feeding in order to settle their skin condition. This is irresponsible since breastfeeding can have a significant health impact on the baby, whereas acne is a cosmetic skin condition.
Treating Acne in Pregnancy
Any oral medication for the treatment of acne during pregnancy is not recommended, even antibiotics. Acne in pregnancy should be conservatively managed with a combination of good skin care and antibacterial skin applications. Vitamin A cream should be avoided altogether as there is always the risk of high amounts absorbing into the blood stream and affecting the fetus. It is important to not that acne during pregnancy is difficult to treat due to the extensive changes in hormone levels as a result of the physiological state.
Avoid using OTC (over the counter) skin care products until you first consult with your doctor. Not all these products are safe during pregnancy and even some natural or herbal acne products may have the potential to affect your pregnancy. Never continue with your oral contraceptive as a means of controlling the extent of the pimples and acne drugs like isotretinoin should never be considered. Attempting to cover up the pimples and acne scars with cosmetics like foundation or powder will often aggravate your acne further and lead to infections prompting the need for antibiotics. The best approach to acne during pregnancy or when breastfeeding is patience and a “wait and see” approach.