Antibiotics in Pregnancy
Once you get a positive urine test, you realize that a lot of things have to be kept in mind. You will notice many changes occurring in your body and you will be told many do’s and don’ts to ensure the wellness of the baby. Antibiotics also belong to the long list of don’ts of pregnancy.

What Are Antibiotics?

Antibiotics are simply the medicines that are used to treat bacterial, fungal or viral infections. Though the medicines that are used to treat fungal infections are called as antifungals, and likewise medicines that fight viruses are known as antivirals, on a larger note, collectively they are referred to as antibiotics.

Why Will I Need Antibiotics In Pregnancy?

Pregnancy rolls on some major changes in your body. Some of the changes can lead to onset of infections and your might have to take antibiotics to treat them. You may ignore the common cough and cold, or symptoms of a headache, but if the infection is spreading, a doctor may put you on antibiotics.

Is It Safe To Take Antibiotics During Pregnancy?

So you have a infection that may need treatment. And the doctor prescribes a course of antibiotics. The immediate question that will strike your mind is that how safe is the use of antibiotics in pregnancy?
Well, it depends. Some of the antibiotics are quite safe and can be easily taken during pregnancy while some are lethal for the baby and many antibiotics are intermediate between the two extreme sides. The last category of antibiotics is not safe for use in pregnancy as it can cause potential risk to the mother as well as the newborn.
antibiotics during pregnancy

Antibiotics in First Trimester

First trimester is a crucial one – on one side the pregnancy hormones are running high and on the other side the baby is experiencing rapid development in the form of organs. It is for this reason that pregnant women are advised the most care during the first trimester, and it comes as no surprise that antibiotics would be prescribed only if very, very necessary.
Sometimes when you fall ill, there is no escape than taking antibiotics in spite of its known potential risks. It is because leaving the disease untreated is more dangerous for the mother and the baby than the threats posed to the baby by using antibiotics. Another important thing is that the safety of antibiotic is also dependent upon the other important factors such as duration of its intake, its quantity or dosage and which trimester of pregnancy you are in.

Classification Of Antibiotics

Nowadays a variety of antibiotics are available in the market. However some of the commonly used ones are cephalosporins (cephalalexin), erythromycin and penicillins (ampicillin, amoxicillin,etc). The below classification will help understand the effects of antibiotics on pregnancy:

  • Category A: These are known to cause either nil or remote harm to the mother and the baby and are safe in pregnancy
  • Category B: No known studies on pregnant women, but may have been found to have some adverse effects on animals. Most safe antibiotics are placed under this shelf
  • Category C: Drugs under this category can be given to a pregnant woman only if the risks are outweighed by the benefits
  • Category D: Given under extreme threatening conditions, positive evidence of risk on the human fetus
  • Category X: Not to be administered to pregnant women in any case, these drugs have been associated with fetal abnormalities
Most Common Infections During Pregnancy

Here are the 2 common conditions faced during pregnancy requiring the usage of antibiotics.

Vaginal Infections in Pregnancy and Antibiotics

Earlier metronidazole (a drug used for curing vaginal infections such as bacterial vaginosis and trichomoniasis) was considered to cause congenital birth defects. But recent research has disapproved the wrong notion. So, metronidazole is regarded as a safe drug and is used for treating vaginal infections in pregnancy.

Pregnancy UTI Antibiotics

Urinary tract infection is quite common condition encountered in pregnancy. Nitrofurantoin (macrobid) is prescribed by your doctor. The drug can be taken as long as the pregnancy has not reached 36 weeks. When your 36th week has started avoid taking the drug as it can adversely affect baby’s red blood cells.
Trimethoprim (trade name Bactrim and Septa) is also used to cure urinary tract infections, but its use in pregnancy is contraindicated. It interferes with the folic acid absorption and can cause neural tube defect in newborn.

Antibiotics That Should Be Strictly Avoided During Pregnancy

Unsafe antibiotics
Antibiotics that should be strictly avoided in pregnancy altogether are:

  • Strepromycin It is used in treating tuberculosis. If used in pregnancy it can lead to hearing loss in baby
  • Tetracycline, minocycline, doxycycline or oxytetracycline these are used for curing acne, and respiratory ailments. But if used in pregnancy, can cause discoloration of baby’s teeth

The below antibiotics are also classified under ‘unsafe antibiotics during pregnancy:

  • Ciprofloxacin
  • Bactrim
  • Doxycycline
  • Furadantin
  • Macrobid
  • Macrodantin
  • Minocycline
  • Tetracycline
Precautions When Taking Antibiotics During Pregnancy

Here are some effective safety tips for ensuring the health of the mother as well as the baby:

  • Never make the folly of treating viral infection with antibiotics for two reasons. First the antibiotics will not cure the infection and second its use will render you antibiotic resistant so when you actually need antibiotics, they won’t be effective
  • Eat balanced and healthy diet
  • Eat a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables. Citrus fruits are rich in vitamin C-the immunity enhancing vitamin
  • Maintain good personal hygiene in order to keep infections at bay
  • Avoid using other’s towels or toilets. This prevents transmission of many infections
Birth Defects Caused By Antibiotics In Pregnancy

Antibiotics can cause serious life threatening birth defects in babies such as:

  • Anencephaly (a lethal malformation of brain and skull)
  • Transverse limb deficiency
  • Choanal atresia (nasal passage blockage)
  • Eye defects
  • Diaphragmatic hernia
  • Cleft palate
  • Congenital heart defects
Safe Antibiotics For Pregnancy

Below is a list of antibiotics that are considered safe and can be used in pregnancy, if the need arises:

  • Amoxicillin
  • Ampicillin
  • Penicillin
  • Cephalexin
  • Clindamycin
  • Erythromycin
  • Nitrofurantoin

**Please seek your doctor’s advice before taking any antibiotic**

Antibiotics whether safe or unsafe, should be used only when prescribed by a doctor. While seeking doctor’s advice, make sure to inform him/her about your pregnancy and also ask about the probable side effects of the drug. Do not hesitate in asking about the drug being advised to you. After all the health of your baby is under question!