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Is Acne a Sign of Pregnancy?

by | Last updated Feb 3, 2022 | Published on Jul 20, 2020 | FAQ | 0 comments

Pregnancy is a time for a lot of changes in a women’s body. There is a mountain of new emotions, excitement, fears and anxiety. It is a vulnerable phase of life where even the smallest things can bring about a storm of emotions.

Our body’s entire physiology adjusts to the arrival of the baby. It is so fascinating to learn how our mothers sacrifice so much even before we’re born.

Yeah, babies are selfish and pregnancy is a rocky ride. Aside from all that happening on the inside, a mother is also dealing with so many physical changes.

One of them is the appearance of new acne or worsening of existing one.

In this article, we go over how to know if your new acne is a sign of pregnancy as well as what to expect of acne during pregnancy. 

In summary

Is Acne and Pregnancy related?

The rising levels of such hormones in pregnancy explains the appearance of new breakouts during pregnancy. These hormones can increase the amount and thickness of sebum. They also retain water in the body causing pressure on the pores. Both these mechanisms increases the tendency of breakouts.

Is Acne a Sign of Pregnancy?

The only way to confirm pregnancy is by blood/urine test or an ultrasound. But the hormones causing acne rise early on after implantation. This makes acne one of the earliest signs of pregnancy.

But for many women hormonal acne apart from pregnancy is also common. So it does not hold a lot of diagnostic value.

How to treat Acne during Pregnancy?

Prescribing medications in pregnancy is risky. The best thing you can do during this time is follow a good skin care routine. Your hormones will go back to normal after pregnancy and so will the breakouts.

The sad reality is that if you have suffered with acne before your pregnancy, you are much more likely to experience acne during pregnancy.

This french study found that 40% of pregnant dermatologist patients had acne.[1]

Is Acne a Sign of Pregnancy

Is acne related to pregnancy?

Acne is an extremely common and reoccurring skin condition.

In most people it appears at the time of puberty and improves after teenage[2]. Many others suffer from adult acne and the incidence of this type of acne is rising[3].

Types of acne you might experience during pregnancy include:

  • blackheads
  • whiteheads
  • pimples
  • pustules

All these types of acne can form by the blockage of skin pores. This is followed by inflammation and swelling. Certain bacterium dwelling on the skin can also infect the pore and worsen the problem.

These pores are blocked by either oil or dead skin cells. Some people have higher tendency of having clogged pores than others.

This depends upon a few factors, including:

Oil (sebum) Production:

Heavy oil production is by far the most important cause of pore blockage. That is why people with oily skin are always prone to having breakouts.

Oil production is controlled by some hormones in our body[4]. These hormones are chemicals that are secreted by cells into the blood. They are responsible for many normal functions in the body.

Hormone Changes

The placenta is an organ by which a developing fetus attaches itself to the mother’s uterus. It is a source of nutrition and oxygen for the baby while inside the womb. This placenta is also responsible for most of the hormonal changes during pregnancy.

One important hormone is Progesterone[5]. The function of progesterone is to condition the uterus and maintain pregnancy. It also plays a role in development of breasts and getting the mammary glands ready for lactation.

Two effects of progesterone indicate its role in the appearance of acne. It makes our oil glands to produce larger amounts of thick sebum. This increased oil production causes the pores to block.

Progesterone also retains water in our body. Due to this the skin engorges and closes off the pore. This leads to oil and dead skin cells accumulating inside.

This is the reason many women present with new or worsening acne during pregnancy.

Acne generally occurs during the first trimester and may improve by second trimester.

Good news is, in most people, this problem is temporary. After delivery the level of hormones drop to normal and the breakouts eventually resolve.

Is Acne a Pregnancy Symptom?

The hormone responsible for causing acne in pregnancy rises from the start. First it is secreted by the empty shell of female egg and makes the uterus ready for implantation. Then after a while placenta takes over the responsibility of maintain high levels of progesterone.

Therefore acne can present as an early sign of what’s to come even before you miss your period. Of course, acne does not have any diagnostic value in this case. Only urine/blood levels of HCG or an ultrasound can confirm a pregnancy.

Does everyone get Acne in Pregnancy?

For many women the “pregnancy glow” turns into tiny painful bumps very fast. While others can reach term without ever having to deal with it. For some lucky ones their skin condition even improves during pregnancy[6].

Do you have a history of acne and breakouts occurring around your monthly cycles?

If yes then you might be one of those who have to deal acne during pregnancy as well. It’s just the way our body reacts to these hormones.

What are Treatment Options for Acne During Pregnancy?

Management of hormonal acne is already very tricky. The mainstay being oral contraceptives and retinoids. Both of which extremely unsafe in pregnancy.

Retinoids are vitamin A derivative drugs. They are very effective in cases of severe and resistant acne. But these drugs are known for causing dangerous birth defects in the developing fetus[7].

Doctors are very careful in prescribing them to any woman of child bearing age. You definitely cannot take it while pregnant.

Many other drugs as well are not extensively studied in pregnant females. So it is hard to say what is safe. Even a lot of anti-biotics are contraindicated.

In this scenario it is best to avoid any oral or even topical medications. This is what majority of women do. Most of the time the acne will resolve itself after term when your hormones go back to normal.

In the meantime, if the acne is severe or you’re concerned about scarring, good skincare will always help.

Here are some natural steps you can take for your pregnancy acne:

  • Use a mild and gentle face wash to keep the face clean.
  • Pat dry and moisturize with a water based face cream.
  • Use a natural clay mask to clear out pores. How often? We suggest one to two times a week.
  • Avoid using unnecessary chemicals in anything you apply to your skin.
  • Follow a healthy lifestyle with lots of water, sleep and health.

Clay masks help control oil production and clogging of pores. It may help in calming the skin while you enjoy this wonderful time in your life.

Related: Are clay masks good for pregnancy?

Other Skin Conditions during Pregnancy:

You will notice a lot of internal and external changes in your body during pregnancy. It is a challenging time that affects every women differently.

Apart from acne, there are more than a few conditions that can affect your skin[8].

Some of these include:


  • Dark spots on the breasts, nipples, or inner thighs
  • Melasma
  • Linea nigra
  • Stretch marks
  • Spider veins
  • Varicose veins (consider visiting a medspa for these)

In Summary:

Pregnancy is a time of highly charged emotions. A women is going through a drastic phase of her life. Watching your body change so rapidly is not easy and acne makes matters worse.

Acne can be one of the first signs of pregnancy, even before a missed period. 

Although appearance of acne is normal and does not relate to the baby’s health, it does take a toll on the mother’s mental state.

It is therefore necessary to understand what is normal during this time and what is not. This way you can better take care of your health.


[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5555287/
[2] https://www.aad.org/member/clinical-quality/guidelines/acne
[3] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5798558/
[4] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5821152/
[5] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3640235/
[6] https://www.intechopen.com/books/acne-and-acneiform-eruptions/acneiform-eruptions-and-pregnancy
[7] https://elearning.rcog.org.uk//sites/default/files/Dermatological%20problems%20in%20pregnancy/2014_BrowneMasonTang_TOG.pdf
[8] https://www.acog.org/patient-resources/faqs/pregnancy/skin-conditions-during-pregnancy


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