Antibiotics During Pregnancy

According to a research by the National Birth Defects Prevention Study published in the year 2009, two types of antibiotics; nitrofurans and sulfonamides, which are used in the treatment of urinary tract infections, may enhance the risk of birth defects especially when taken in the first trimester of pregnancy. However, other research done by The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, suggest that the two antibiotics may still be appropriate if there is no alternative.

Often, pregnant mothers will watch their diet and take medicine keenly to ensure health of the baby. Read on to learn when it is safe/ unsafe to take antibiotics during pregnancy.


Is It Safe to Use Antibiotics During Pregnancy?

This depends greatly on the type of antibiotics taken. Some may pose danger to the developing baby during pregnancy while others may not have harmful effects to the mother and her child. If a drug poses some risks to your developing baby, you will have to keenly scrutinize its harmful effects and weigh them accordingly with their benefits in regard to what they treat.

For instance, it may be better to prioritize your illness first and if there is no alternative for the drug, you will have to take it even though it can compromise your baby’s health. What most of the pregnant mothers may not know is that, if you don’t treat your illness, it could be risky to the unborn child. In addition, any medicine side effects will ultimately depend on the duration for which it is taken, amount of medicine ingested and the stage of pregnancy during which it is taken.

Penicillin (like amoxicillin and ampicillin), erythromycin and cephalosporin (like cephalexin) are some of the safest antibiotics during pregnancy. Below is the detailed information of safety for some common antibiotics as well as the precautions you should take.

Antibiotics Used to Treat UTI

  • Nitrofurantoin (trade name Macrodantin or Macrobid) may be recommended by doctors to be used by pregnant mothers in case of urinary tract infections during the whole pregnancy period. You should stop using this drug only at about 36 weeks or immediately if you go into pre-term labour. There is a significant risk that, it may affect the baby’s red blood cells especially when used within several days of delivery.
  • Trimethoprim which is an ingredient used in most of the drugs to treat urinary tract infections, may not be safe to use during pregnancy. It blocks the effects of folic acid. Folic acid is very important during pregnancy since it reduces the baby’s potential risk of developing neural tube defects and other birth related defects. For pregnant mothers who may not have any alternative, it’s advisable to take the drug with daily prenatal vitamin. Effects of Trimethoprim can be prevented by daily addition of folic acid supplement of about 400 mg contained in the daily prenatal vitamins.

Antibiotics Used to Treat Strep Throat

Strep throat is a bacterial infection which can be treated by the use of antibiotics. Some of these antibiotics include:

  • Penicillin

Penicillin is regarded as one of the safest antibiotic to use during pregnancy. It has shown no negative side effects to pregnant women who are not allergic to this drug. However, diarrhea may be associated with the use of this medicine. In some extreme cases where the diarrhea (stool) appears to contain some blood stains, you can contact your doctor or physician as this could be one of the rare allergies of this drug. Penicillin passes through the breast milk in very small amounts and there are no reported negative side effects during breast feeding if a pregnant mother uses this drug.

  • Cephalexin

Cephalexin doesn’t impair fertility or even cause harm to the fetus, it; however, crosses the placenta and distributes to the fetal tissues. It can be taken by pregnant women but they ought to be cautious since there is no established research linking it to the development of pregnancy defects.

  • Amoxicillin

Amoxicillin is also another antibiotic which can be used by pregnant mothers to treat strep throat. The tests that have been carried out on this drug have proved to be positive showing no tangible evidence of teratogenicity (development of growth and developmental defects in the fetus). However, this medicine will only be recommended if the benefits of taking it actually outweigh the risks associated with it.

Antibiotics Used to Treat Other Conditions

  • Metronidazole (used to treat some vaginal infections), which was sometimes back suspected by experts to be associated with birth defects was concluded to have no relation to this condition by a recent research.
  • Streptomycin which is used to treat tuberculosis should proficiently be avoided, since it can cause loss of hearing in your baby.
  • Tetracycline (including oxytetracycline, minocycline, and doxycycline) are used to treat acne and respiratory infections. Tetracycline, if taken in the third or second trimester of pregnancy, may discolor your baby’s teeth.

Final Notes

It’s important to note that the choice for any antibiotic relies on different factors. These factors include the potential for adverse effects on pregnancy and lactation, possibility for resistance and targeted organism in particular. Your doctor may be of great benefit when it comes to helping you choose the right antibiotics and weighing the risks against the benefits of these antibiotics.

Watch the following video to learn more about the safety of using antibiotics during pregnancy and other drug risks: