The Nickelodeon alum and 'I’m Glad My Mom Is Dead' author talked about a pregnancy scare she experienced while taking Accutane
Jennette McCurdy says that she had a “terrifying” pregnancy scare while taking a popular acne medication known to cause birth defects.
The iCarly alum and author of the New York Times bestselling memoir I'm Glad My Mom Is Dead revealed her pregnancy scare Tuesday on the latest episode of her podcast, Hard Feelings with Jenette McCurdy.
“I want to talk about acne,” McCurdy began, sharing that at age 31, she still struggles with an acne problem that began when she was about 15.
“I thought it was just because of bright lights and heavy makeup, and of course I was on shows for years. And then the TV shows stopped and I still had acne” McCurdy said.
“It makes me so insecure. My God, you guys, it affects my self-esteem really negatively.”
McCurdy said she saw multiple dermatologists and tried several medications, including Azelaic acid, niacinamide, Tretinoin and others, until she was finally put on “the lowest dose of Accutane for a couple of months.”
Accutane is a type of retinoid medicine to treat severe acne, according to the Cleveland Clinic, which notes that it is often prescribed if other acne medications don’t work.
While Accutane is effective for treating acne, it comes with significant side effects for people of child-bearing age.
“Severe birth defects may occur even if just one dose is taken. Do not breastfeed while taking this medication or for 1 month after stopping treatment,” the Cleveland Clinic cautions.
As McCurdy recalled, ”You have to take a test to show that you know all the risks involved and you have to sign a contract saying that you will not get pregnant — under no circumstances will you get pregnant while taking Accutane.”
The risks are so severe, McCurdy says, “You have to be on two forms of contraception. You have to go and you have to get bloodwork once a month. You have to go to your dermatologist after getting your bloodwork every month just to check up, you’re just also giving your dermatologist an opportunity to see your skin up close and how your lips are peeling off because that’s a side effect of Accutane."
She said after three months on the medicine, “I was in a bad mood. I didn't want to go to my dermatologist…You know when you wake and you see that appointment on your calendar and you’re like, ‘F—.” Like, well there goes my Wednesday.”
With her signature deadpan humor, McCurdy explains, “I just didn’t want the bummer of going into the dermatology office and seeing the same f—ing posters in the same f—ing rooms. There is nothing more depressing than the posters in your doctor’s office. It’s always a woman with yoga pants and healthered cotton tee, gray hair, and headband and the biggest f—ing smile you’ve ever seen.”
But when she called to cancel her appointment, her dermatologist called back ten minutes later, insisting McCurdy come in.
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“The receptionist sounds, like, stressed out and she goes, ‘Hey, so I spoke with the dermatologist again and she says you really need to come in, okay?’ I'm like, 'What the f—k? Why does the receptionist sound so stressed. Is she okay? What is going on?’”
“I go, 'I can’t make it. Can I just come in next week?'" McCurdy recalled. "She goes, 'No, because we got the results of your bloodwork and there's a pregnancy.'"
Per the National Institute of Health, “Isotretinoin [the active ingredient in Accutane] causes birth defects in up to 35% or more of infants whose are exposed during pregnancy.” These defects can include “moderate to severe behavioral problems and/or intellectual disability.”
“I was shocked,” McCurdy says. “I felt like I got the wind knocked out of me. I was so dizzy. I involuntarily sat on the edge of the bed. My body just like fell on the end of the bed. I was like 'What?' Like, cotton-mouthed. Even now just repeating it, my heart is pounding. Oh my God, it was so terrifying”
She says she began “recounting recent sexual activities of the time" wondering, "How is this possible? How could this be? What happened? What wasn't working? How did this happen?"
“I order an Uber. I’m in the backseat of the Uber, dizzy the entire way, feeling like I’m going to pass out or throw up or both. Awful. Awful. Terrible.”
McCurdy said she was brought back immediately to see a doctor, who asked her, “So is there a chance that you could be pregnant?” and I’m like “What? You said there was a pregnancy. It sounds like you know there’s not just a a chance but there’s a certainty. You called me here, hon. You said I was pregnant.”
She says she was informed false pregnancies can sometimes happen during the medication.
After some blood work, McCurdy shared that she discovered. ”I am not pregnant and it is fine.”
However, “that experience was so terrifying,” she says, “that I was like I gotta get off this s—t. This is not for me.”
And now at 31, McCurdy says “I’m struggling just as much as I ever have” with acne.
“Maybe you’re looking at this being like, 'Jennette, you look fine.' First off, you can't tell from an Instagram photo… ‘You have great skin’ and I’m thinking, ‘No, I don’t. I know how to put makeup on my face. I know how to find a good foundation shade and the right application."
“I'm considering posting a picture but I'm too insecure to do do it. It's interesting to me because I can access vulnerability so easily in so many ways, but with my face, it's hard. Like with my words, I can. With my face, I don't think I can."
She continues, “And I wish it didn't matter to me. I wish that I could be past caring about my acne, just go 'Oh, it's whatever. It's just a thing that I have, you know, who cares?'
"But I care so much, I just wish my skin was smooth," she shared. "I feel like, dirty, because of my acne. It makes me sad that I feel that way about myself.”
“I've tried everything. And the only thing I haven't tried, I guess, is just accepting it and owning it. And maybe the reason that’s the only thing I haven’t tried is that’s the hardest thing to try.”
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