The use of bleaching pills and products among pregnant people

Many people have gone from bleaching creams to bleaching pills for a child yet to be born, and evidence shows this will cause more harm than good to babies.

Black pregnant mother consulting her gynecologist

More people make efforts to achieve almost every desired feature, such as larger buttocks, larger breasts, a pointed nose, and a better dentition layout, among others.

This should not be a problem if there are little or no health risks involved. However, it becomes a public health concern when any of such cosmetic procedures pose great harm to the health, especially that of a baby.

There have been different reports of bleaching among Africans and other ethnic groups with Black or Colored skin. A 2019 study noted that skin bleaching is common among Africans and Afro-Caribbeans living in New York City. The study added that about 13.2% of the participants used bleaching products while pregnant or breastfeeding.

The fact that prenatal and postnatal exposure to bleaching pills and products that contain hydroquinone and mercury highlights the urgent need to study the side effects of skin bleaching activities on the neurodevelopment and growth of young babies and infants.

Prevalence of skin bleaching among Africans

An article in Radiant Health Magazine stated that at least 75% of Nigerian women use creams or other products to lighten their skin.

A study published in the West African Journal of Medicine showed that skin-bleaching creams have gained wide acceptance. Both males and females practice it in Nigeria, particularly in Lagos State.

Photo source: Shutterstock

Four hundred and fifty traders were selected for this study, and the result showed a 77.3% prevalence of the use of skin-bleaching creams. Females made up 72.4% of skin-bleaching product users, while males made up the remaining 27.6%.

Hydroquinone-based products sell well for women in Africa. A 2016 report by the New York Times showed that about 70% of West African women use skin bleaching or lightning creams.

Nowadays, mercury-based products and cortico-steroids are also widely used in skin bleaching.

The women are hopeful that they will evade the side effects of skin bleaching, which include skin cancer, kidney failure, hyperpigmentation, and even birth defects in babies while reaping the supposed good side, which is 'light skin.'

An article published in The Conversation calls this habitual act "the bleaching syndrome". The article highlights three main components of the bleaching syndrome:

  • The psychological aspect (involves self-rejection of dark skin)
  • Sociological aspect (influences behavior of the society)
  • Physiological aspect (altering other parts of the body to fit in with the dominant group)

Cultural interventions need to be implemented to improve behavioral change among Black people or people of color.

Pregnant people also use bleaching pills for their unborn babies

An article published on Blavity reported that some pregnant people don't wait until the baby is born before trying to make cosmetic changes. "Pregnant women in Ghana are now taking skin bleaching pills for their unborn babies, and that's a problem," the article reported.

Ghana's Food and Drugs Authority (FDA) issued a warning to pregnant women who were taking skin-bleaching pills during pregnancy to lighten their babies' skin.

According to the FDA, using skin-bleaching glutathione pills has become a growing trend among pregnant women.

The FDA further asserted that the pills are illegal and can cause health complications such as skin cancer, birth defects, and damage to the babies' internal organs and limbs.

Evidently, ads throughout Africa promote lighter skin; hence, mothers do not want their babies to miss out on what it seems society finds appealing.

Is there an approved skin-bleaching pill for unborn babies?

Health experts advise against adults using bleaching creams and other products to make their skin lighter. Using these products on an unborn child is even more unacceptable.

Note that:

There is no safe or approved pill capable of lightening a baby's skin inside the womb.

In a statement released to the BBC, the FDA clearly stated that it wants "the general public to know that no product has been approved by the FDA in the form of a tablet to lighten the skin of an unborn child".

Side effects of using bleaching pills or creams

The side effects of using skin-bleaching creams and products for adults are numerous.

Photo source: Shutterstock

Studies in this area have shown that skin bleaching can cause skin discoloration, skin cancer, rashes, and kidney damage in adults.

Skin-bleaching creams and pills act to disrupt the synthesis and production of melanin. Melanin is the skin's natural pigment. The pigment gives our skin, hair, and eyes their color.

Africans typically make more melanin than Whites, giving them (Africans) the characteristic dark skin. Melanin production is a good thing as it helps protect humans from the sun's UV rays.

The use of bleaching pills by pregnant women is risky and poses harm to unborn babies. Instead of improving the child's life, it can hinder the child's chance of enjoying a better quality of life.

If you are thinking of taking bleaching pills for your baby, you may want to reconsider, as bleaching pills and other bleaching products can cause skin cancer, birth defects, limb deformities, and damage to the baby's internal organs. Health experts also discourage its use both in the prenatal and postnatal phases.