Isotretinoin (Accutane) as a Teratogen
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Isotretinoin is a molecule and a byproduct (metabolite) of vitamin A, and in greater than normal amounts in pregnant women, it can cause fetal abnormalities including cleft lips, ear and eye defects, and mental retardation. Isotretinoin is commonly called by its trade name Accutane, and it's a chemical compound derived from vitamin A, or retinoic acid. Doctors prescribe isotretinoin to treat severe acne. For pregnant women, too much vitamin A or isotretinoin can also cause greater than normal rates of stillbirths and fetal disintegrations after the ninth week of gestation. Women who use isotretinoin during the first trimester of their pregnancies, even in small amounts, risk defects to their fetuses such as external ear malformations, cleft palates, undersized jaws (micrognathia), a variety of heart defects, buildups of fluids inside the skulls that leads to brain swelling (hydrocephalus), small heads and brains (microcephaly), and mental retardation.