A little nip here, tuck there or having clear skin can make a woman feel good. And there’s no denying that feeling good can lead to looking great. But doctors say some pampering, beauty treatments and plastic procedures during pregnancy can be dangerous to a woman’s unborn baby.
In addition to mercury in seafood or alcohol, there are several less obvious things such as vitamin A and oxybenzone (often found in sunscreen) doctors say could prove harmful to a growing bundle of joy.
“It’s always better to be safe as we don’t always know how some treatments and procedures may effect an unborn child,” says Debra Jaliman M.D., a Manhattan dermatologist and professor at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.
If you’re expecting, it’s best to steer clear of these beauty boosters for the next nine months.
It’s relied on to treat urine leaks, erase years from your face or send migraines packing. While there’s no evidence this crosses the placenta to the baby, doctors still caution against using Botox during pregnancy. “However, Botox is a poison and no one knows the effects it has on a pregnancy,” says Daniel Roshan, M.D., an OB/GYN and professor, NYU School of Medicine.
Botox is also not approved by the FDA for use in pregnant or breastfeeding women.
2. Dermal fillers
Tzu says fillers like Juvederm, Restylane and Perlane are absolute no-nos during pregnancy. “Any injectable material that is not FDA-approved for pregnancy should be avoided,” says Daniel Roshan, M.D., an OB/GYN and professor at NYU School of Medicine.
One of the main ingredients in many injectables is hyaluronic acid. And even though that’s not considered unsafe to an unborn baby, the body produces this compound naturally, and Roshan says it’s still wise to err on the side of caution: “Don’t use fillers until your pregnancy is over.”
3. Laser treatments
They’re a common remedy for brown or red spots and splotchy skin. But Roshan says you should steer clear of lasers when you’ve got a bun in the oven.
“A pregnant woman’s skin is more sensitive than when she’s not pregnant. There is also excess hair growth during pregnancy that usually goes away after delivery, so lasers shouldn’t be used to treat that issue either.”
4. Retinol A creams
Retinol A, a form of vitamin A, is a popular ingredient in anti-aging creams. It’s used to improve skin tone and quality in over-the-counter moisturizers and serums and is also often found in acne medicine like isotretinoin or Accutane, says Melissa Doft, M.D., a plastic surgeon and professor at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City.
“I have my patients stop use of all retinol A creams,” says Doft.
Studies show that when taken orally, retinol A can lead to severe birth defects including hydrocephaly (enlargement of the fluid filled spaces in the brain), microcephaly (small head and brain), intellectual disabilities, ear abnormalities, cleft palate and heart defects.
“The amount of retinol A absorbed in the body from topical creams is much lower than when taking the oral form,” says Doft. “Even so, there are some reports linking topical retinol A to birth defects, so it is best to avoid creams which contain retinol A while trying to conceive and in pregnancy.”
5. Skin lighteners
Pregnant woman have to watch out for skin lighteners as they’re not safe, says Doft. Hydroquinone, a popular lightener, is used topically to treat pigmentation. “It inhibits melanin production,” explains Doft. “However, scientists estimate that 35 to 45 percent of the substance is absorbed when used topically.”
Hydroquinone has been proven to cause birth defects and low birth weight in animals but research is not conclusive in humans. “Due to the substantial absorption rate and proven defects in animals, it is best to avoid this product during pregnancy,” says Doft.
6. Elective skin surgery
Even if you don’t have to be under general anesthesia, doctors suggest scheduling removal of benign skin growths and other elective procedures until after your trip to the delivery room and you’re finished breastfeeding.
Anesthesia can have a sedative effect on an unborn baby and has been linked to an increased risk of cleft palate.
7. Prescription acne treatments
A multitude of prescription oral acne medications, especially those with isotretinoin, come with a risk of birth defects, according to the FDA. And treating acne during pregnancy may not be necessary.
“It’s common for women to notice changes in their skin, include acne during pregnancy,” says Jaliman, author of Skin Rules. “Those changes generally subside once hormones return to normal after pregnancy.” However, if you want to spot treat, Jaliman says talk to your doctor about any over-the-counter remedies prior to and during pregnancy.
8. Chemical peels
The skin smoother can work wonders when you’re not pregnant. Because they remove the outer layer of skin, chemical peels can lessen the severity of skin discolorations and marks left by acne and breakouts. However, because skin sensitivity is increased during pregnancy, Roshan says a pregnant woman may have an adverse reaction to a chemical peel. And be left with skin that’s blotchier and more irritated than before the peel.
They may also be a waste of money.
Using chemical peels to treat skin conditions caused by pregnancy hormones isn’t necessary, since Roshan says these issues tend to clear up on their own within months of having a baby.
9. Leg vein removal via sclerotherapy
Sclerotherapy is a popular treatment for varicose and spider veins that has been used since the 1930s. The procedure uses either a highly concentrated saline solution or a specially made detergent that is injected directly into the vein, causing the vein to disappear gradually over three to six weeks.
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The procedure is simple and typically performed in an outpatient setting. Complications are minimal, and there’s no known risk to an unborn baby. However, it’s unclear if the chemical used to cause the vein to disappear causes birth defects thus doctors emphatically caution against the procedure during pregnancy.
10. Elective dental treatments
The level of risk to an unborn child during teeth whitening and other cosmetic dental procedures is unknown. Thus, Roshan says it’s wise to postpone any non-essential dental work until after delivery. In general, routine cleanings and treating cavities with fillings are safe, but it’s best to speak to your dentist and OB/GYN before having any dental work performed just to be sure.