How Birth Control and Pregnancy Affect Acne

Acne typically develops during puberty, when hormone levels begin to change. As the hormones surge it causes the sebaceous glands to go into overdrive. They begin producing increased levels of sebaceous oils that often become clogged inside the glands. When the oils can't escape, acne develops. 

If fluctuating hormone levels within the body trigger an increase in sebaceous oil production, it makes sense then that any time a person's hormone level is altered there's an increased chance that an outbreak of acne will occur. With women, acne flare-ups are common while they are taking birth control pills and also when they become pregnant.

Birth Control Pill to Control Acne

Women who do take the birth control pill and who notice that their acne is getting worse should discuss the situation with their doctor. Different brands of oral contraception have different levels of hormones and one side effect of some brands is an increase in acne. Switching to another brand can bring acne back under control.

And that's why women who have moderate but persistent acne sometimes choose to start taking the birth control pill as a way to help clear up their acne. Any women who is healthy, who is at least age 15, who has begun menstruating and who has made the decision to begin using oral contraceptives can discuss getting a prescription for a birth control pill with their doctor. There are several brands that help clear up acne but only one so far has been approved by the FDA for treating acne and that is Ortho Tri-cyclen.

It's important to note that taking the birth control pill as a way to treat acne is an option that is best pursued only after all other acne treatment options have been attempted without success. The birth control pill does have side effects and it must be taken exactly as prescribed to be effective.

Acne During Pregnancy

Women who have become pregnant often report an increase in acne, too. Many changes occur within a woman's body in an effort to properly prepare the body for the growing fetus. The two primary female hormones at work in every woman's body are progesterone and estrogen. During pregnancy, progesterone becomes the dominant hormone, taking on new roles as the fetus develops. But progesterone is more androgenic than estrogen, which basically means it is more like the hormones found in men. Increased progesterone during pregnancy causes the sebaceous glands to produce more sebaceous oils than normal and that is what can cause outbreaks of acne.

If it's possible, the best way to handle acne during pregnancy is to realize that it is a short-term problem that will usually go away once the baby is born. If this isn't possible, discuss your options over with a dermatologist who has experience working with patients during their pregnancy. After discussing your situation, the dermatologist will be able to suggest treatment options that'll make you happier with your appearance and that won't harm your baby. 


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