The information provided below is for readers based in the United States of America. Readers outside of the United States of America should seek the information from local sources.

What is folliculitis during pregnancy?

Folliculitis is inflammation of hair follicles, usually because the follicles are infected. The most common type of folliculitis is acne, in which the infection is bacterial, but other organisms, such as fungus, can also cause folliculitis. During the first and second trimesters of pregnancy, while levels of the female hormones estrogen and progesterone increase, so do levels of androgens, male hormones, which stimulate the production of a waxy substance called sebum. As sebum accumulates, this can clog your pores, trapping bacteria, allowing them to grow, producing pustules consisting of red, inflamed skin and white to yellow pus. While it is very common for pregnant women to suffer outbreaks, pregnancy can also trigger a non-infectious form of folliculitis called pruritic folliculitis of pregnancy (PFP), a type of pregnancy dermatoses (skin conditions that develop specifically during pregnancy). Additionally, you can develop folliculitis from shaving and various other situations that irritated follicles.

How common is folliculitis during pregnancy?

Acne has been reported to strike somewhere in the realm of 40 percent of pregnant women, although the severity of such cases varies widely. In contrast, PFP is fairly rare, occurring in approximately 1 out of every 3,000 pregnancies.

How is folliculitis during pregnancy diagnosed?

Folliculitis is usually purely a clinical diagnosis, meaning that doctors assess your symptoms which typically include clusters of pimples (red bumps, typically with whiteheads), often on burning, itchy skin, sometimes with tenderness, and sometimes blisters that have opened and crusted in context of your history. Sometimes, the doctor will also perform dermoscopy, a procedure in which your skin is viewed closely with a kind of microscope. Occasionally, a biopsy will be taken of your skin and sent to a lab for analysis.

Does folliculitis cause problems during pregnancy?

As noted above, symptoms of acne are clusters of pimples (red bumps, typically with whiteheads), often on burning, itchy skin. The lesions may be tender, and blisters may open and crust over. In cases of PFP, you will also experience uncomfortable clusters of pimples, with the episode typically lasting 2-3 weeks and then resolving.

Does folliculitis cause problems for the baby?

No. There are no consequences for the baby in cases of maternal acne, and PFP is also not thought to cause any fetal complications.

What to consider about taking medications when you are pregnant or breastfeeding:

  • The risks to yourself and your baby if you do not treat the folliculitis
  • The risks and benefits of each medication you use when you are pregnant
  • The risks and benefits of each medication you use when you are breastfeeding

What should I know about using medication to treat folliculitis during pregnancy?

Medications for folliculitis consist mostly of agents, such as creams, that you apply to your skin, containing, low dose corticosteroids, 10 percent benzoyl peroxide, or both.

Who should NOT stop taking medication for folliculitis during pregnancy?

Folliculitis is not life-threatening, so you can stop treatment if you prefer, but then your condition is likely to flare up again.

What should I know about choosing a medication for my folliculitis during pregnancy?

It is important to stay in communication with your health care provider as the release of new studies over time can change the outlook on the role of specific medications during pregnancy.

You may find Pregistrys expert reports about the medications to treat this condition here. Additional information can also be found in the sources listed below.

What should I know about taking a medication for my folliculitis when I am breastfeeding?

In many cases, the folliculitis has cleared up long before you deliver, so there is no longer a need for medication. In the event that you do suffer from the condition when you are nursing, corticosteroids in skin creams are at low doses, so there is not likely to be a great deal of absorption into your bloodstream and then into milk. Benzoyl peroxide on your skin is not dangerous if you are nursing. In the unlikely case that you suffer folliculitis on the breast itself, then there is an issue of the infant being able to be exposed to the medication, in which case you should consider not nursing until your condition has cleared up.

What alternative therapies besides medications can I use to treat my folliculitis during pregnancy?

Folliculitis, including PFP and some cases of acne, are often treated with ultraviolet B (UVB) phototherapy, in which the affected areas of skin are exposed to beams of UV-B light. Washing skin with mild soap and other gentle cleansers also can be helpful as can avoidance of things that irritate your skin, such as greasy cosmetics, greasy sunscreens, and certain hair products.

What can I do for myself and my baby when I have folliculitis during pregnancy?

Follow the instructions of your physician and be assured that the condition is temporary and will not lead to grave complications, either for you or your baby.

Resources for folliculitis in pregnancy:

For more information about folliculitis during and after pregnancy, contact (800-994-9662 [TDD: 888-220-5446]) or contact the following organizations:


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General information

It is very common for women to worry about having a miscarriage or giving birth to a child with a birth defect while they are pregnant. Many decisions that women make about their health during pregnancy are made with these concerns in mind.

For many women these concerns are very real. As many as 1 in 5 pregnancies end in a miscarriage, and 1 in 33 babies are born with a birth defect. These rates are considered the background population risk, which means they do not take into consideration anything about the health of the mom, the medications she is taking, or the family history of the mom or the baby’s dad. A number of different things can increase these risks, including taking certain medications during pregnancy.

It is known that most medications, including over-the-counter medications, taken during pregnancy do get passed on to the baby. Fortunately, most medicines are not harmful to the baby and can be safely taken during pregnancy. But there are some that are known to be harmful to a baby’s normal development and growth, especially when they are taken during certain times of the pregnancy. Because of this, it is important to talk with your doctor or midwife about any medications you are taking, ideally before you even try to get pregnant.

If a doctor other than the one caring for your pregnancy recommends that you start a new medicine while you are pregnant, it is important that you let them know you are pregnant.

If you do need to take a new medication while pregnant, it is important to discuss the possible risks the medicine may pose on your pregnancy with your doctor or midwife. They can help you understand the benefits and the risks of taking the medicine.

Ultimately, the decision to start, stop, or change medications during pregnancy is up to you to make, along with input from your doctor or midwife. If you do take medications during pregnancy, be sure to keep track of all the medications you are taking.

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