Pregnancy, as well as prior use of birth control pills, can cause darkening of the skin. Sometimes called melasma, or the "mask of pregnancy," many women turn to prescription creams such as hydroquinone once the baby is delivered. If you're a breastfeeding mom, read on for further information about hydroquinone use.


Hydroquinone is a topical cream that inhibits the body's ability to create melanin--the source of brown pigment in the skin. It's a bleaching agent that not only minimizes existing brown spots, but inhibits new ones from developing. It is considered a Class C drug, which means it has caused harm to developing fetuses in animal studies, but benefits from the use of the product may outweigh the risks. No human studies have been conducted on the effects on a developing baby.


As with many medications, it's not clear if the use of topical hydroquinone will pass to your breast milk. And, if it does, it's unclear if there would be any harm to your infant. However, be aware of any allergic reaction in your baby if you are using this product. These symptoms include difficulty breathing, swelling in the face, tongue, throat or lips, as well as hives. The Physician's Desk Reference does not include information about breastfeeding and the use of hydroquinone. While this reference is considered extensive, because of the lack of medical studies, the final answer on the use of this product while breastfeeding is unclear.


The issue of dark pigmentation, however, can be uncomfortable for many women. If you're hesitant about using hydroquinone and would prefer to avoid it until there's more definitive information, use an alternative. Consider natural Cellex-C products; its Fade Away Gel for Dark Spots uses botanical ingredients. Also, a product known as Lightening Gel is derived from natural ingredients, including tea trea oil and kojic acids. They are also considered bleaching agents. Another product to consider is Kinerase. It's not a bleaching agent, but it helps fade light marks. Avoid products that include high doses of vitamin A, such as Retin A or Tazorac. Products derived from high doses of vitamin A that are taken orally, such as Accutane, have been proven to cause birth defects.


The use of hydroquinone while breastfeeding is not prohibited; however, be sure to let your doctor know if you are. Each woman's skin condition is unique and needs to be evaluated by a health practitioner. The health of the baby and the health of the mother need to both be taken into consideration before using a prescription product such as hydroquinone.


Topical treatments are poorly absorbed by the skin, which is one reason why your doctor may feel comfortable prescribing hydroquinone for while you are breastfeeding. But be sure to follow safety directions when using it. Wash your hands thoroughly before touching your baby, especially near the mouth or eyes.