Can Accutane Cause Birth Defects?


Women are still not sure that taking the acne-fighting prescription drug Accutane while pregnant vastly increases the chances of an unborn baby will have a birth defect. So, women who are pregnant or planning to get pregnant should avoid taking Accutane.

In this article:

What is Accutane?
What Birth Defects are Caused by Accutane?
How Long After Accutane Can You Have a Baby?
Does Accutane Affect Future Pregnancy?
Why Accutane is Dangerous?
Can Accutane Cause Birth Defects if Male Taking?

Risks of Using Accutane During Pregnancy

What is Accutane?

Accutane is the brand used for the isotretinon drug. It is used to treat severe acne that hasn’t responded to other treatments. It may be prescribed for other uses include other skin problems and certain kinds of cancer.

accutane baby birth defects

This drug is a vitamin A derivative (retinoid), so the body reacts to it in a similar way that it does to vitamin A. Because vitamin A can build up in the tissues, it can quickly become a problem. Vitamin A supplements should not be taken while taking isotretinoin. Accutane is the original brand of isotretinoin which is no longer sold but these brands are still used like Absorica, Amnesteem, Claravis, Myorisan, and Zenatane.

Accutane is contraindicated in women who are or may become pregnant during therapy or in the following month, especially within one month. There was a case of ear malformation in a newborn whose mother has taken Accutane for 2 years until one month prior to the time when she became pregnant.

What Birth Defects are Caused by Accutane?

Birth defects are health conditions that are present at birth which leads to change in the shape or function of one or more parts of the body. These defects can cause problems in overall health, how the body develops or how the body works. Birth defects caused by Accutane include –

  • Cleft palate and other birth defects of the face – in this a baby’s palate (roof of the mouth) doesn’t form completely and has an opening in it.
  • Congenital heart defects – these are heart conditions that can affect the heart’s shape, how it works or both.
  • Ear problems – babies may be born with small ears or missing ears. Some babies have a hearing loss.
  • Eye problems – these can include microphthalmia which is when one or both eyeballs are very small. It may lead to vision loss. Some babies may seem to be missing eyes but usually have some eye tissue.
  • Microcephaly – this is a birth defect in which a baby’s head is smaller than expected as compared to normal babies of the same sex and age. Children with severe microcephaly may have physical, intellectual and developmental disabilities.
  • Problems with the thymus gland – this gland is in the upper chest which makes white blood cells protect the body from infection.
  • Problems with the parathyroid glands – these glands make parathyroid hormone which helps keep the control and right balance of calcium in the body.
  • Brain – it can cause a build-up of fluid and pressure on the brain known as hydrocephalus and can lead to intellectual disabilities.

How Long After Accutane Can You Have a Baby?

It is recommended that a woman wait one month after stopping Accutane before trying to become pregnant. Usually, it is seen that Accutane is no longer found in a woman’s blood 4-5 days after the last dose and most of its by-products should be gone within 10 days after the last dose. However, the time it takes Accutane to be cleared from the body can be longer in some people which is why it is recommended to wait at least one month after stopping Accutane before trying to become pregnant.

Does Accutane Affect Future Pregnancy?

Accutane does not affect fertility. One month after finishing a course of Accutane, women can get pregnant with no additional risk to the unborn baby.

Why Accutane is Dangerous?

Accutane is dangerous for unborn babies. Women of childbearing years should first take a pregnancy test before starting this medication and also, use an effective form of birth control plus a backup method. Women should not get pregnant for four weeks after stop taking it. If got pregnant, stop taking the medication and tell the doctor right away.

Taking Accutane is dangerous during pregnancy as it increases baby’s risk of –

  • Miscarriage –This is when a baby dies in the womb before 20 weeks of pregnancy or the gestation period.
  • Premature birth – this is birth that happens too soon, before 37 weeks of pregnancy. Premature babies may have more health problems and birth and later in life than babies born full-term.
  • Intellectual and developmental disabilities later in life – these are problems with how the brain works that can cause a person to have trouble or delays in physical development, learning, communicating, taking care of own or getting along with others.

Can Accutane Cause Birth Defects if Male Taking?

Men who take Accutane may have some of the drugs in the semen but does not appear to affect sperm. There are no studies at risk for birth defects when the male takes Accutane. So, exposures that males have are unlikely to increase risks to a pregnancy.

Anyone planning to take Accutane must register with iPLEDGE. The FDA-approved restricted distribution program is designed to inform people about the risks of birth defects and prevent pregnancy while taking the drug.


Accutane is a known human teratogen than can lead to multiple malformations which include birth defects and intrauterine fetal death. It should be avoided in pregnancy.