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Is it safe to take Accutane for acne while I'm pregnant?

No. Accutane is known to cause birth defects, so it's not safe for any woman who's pregnant or trying to conceive. In fact, it would be very difficult to get a prescription for this drug while you're pregnant.

Accutane is a man-made form of vitamin A that's taken orally to treat severe acne when other treatments have not been effective. The generic name of the drug is isotretinoin, and it's also sold under the trade names Amnesteem, Claravis, and Sotret.

Your baby runs a very high risk of birth defects if you take this drug during pregnancy, even if you take only a small amount for a short period of time. Birth defects associated with the drug include mental retardation, various brain malformations, heart defects, and facial abnormalities.

Accutane can cause these defects in the early weeks of pregnancy — before you may even know you're pregnant. Taking the drug also significantly raises your risk of miscarriage, premature delivery, and infant death.

Before receiving a prescription for Accutane, you must agree to the "iPLEDGE" program. This program was designed by the drug's manufacturer to make certain that the drug is not prescribed to anyone who is pregnant and to ensure that no one becomes pregnant while on the drug.

You'll be warned about the consequences of taking Accutane during pregnancy, required to show two negative pregnancy tests, and asked to watch a video on contraceptive methods and how to use them properly. Before you're given a prescription for the drug, you'll have to sign a consent form showing that you've been warned about the risks.

Unless you're going to be abstinent, you must agree to use two different forms of birth control while you're on Accutane. You can only get a prescription for one month's supply at a time. In order to renew the prescription, you'll have to see your caregiver and take a pregnancy test every month while you're on the drug.

If you're taking Accutane and want to become pregnant, you must stop taking the drug at least one month before you start trying to conceive. The drug should be cleared from your body within ten days after the last dose, but you must wait a month to be sure.

If you've been taking Accutane and have just found out you're pregnant, stop taking the drug right away and call your caregiver. She can tell you what the risks are and what kind of testing you can undergo to see whether your baby has been affected.

You can have a special ultrasound during your second trimester to screen for birth defects. But tests cannot tell you whether your child will have learning or developmental problems.

Pregnant women also need to avoid other drugs related to vitamin A, including Tegison (etretinate) and Soriatane (acitretin). While there's no current evidence that using vitamin A creams (such as Retin-A) on your skin can harm a developing baby, it's best to avoid them as well when you're pregnant.

Finally, don't take more than the recommended amount of vitamin A itself during pregnancy since high amounts can cause birth defects and liver problems.

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