Antibiotics During Pregnancy – Is It Safe?

6 min read

Written by Editorial Team

Editorial Team

Antibiotics During Pregnancy ..

Pregnancy creates a placenta. Placentas perform many functions. It feeds the infant. It aids in infant waste elimination. The placenta filters the mother-baby communication. Certain drugs cross the placenta and reach the infant. Antibiotics are placenta-transmissible. How safe is antibiotics during pregnancy? 

Pregnancy-related bacterial illnesses may need antibiotics. Pregnancy requires treating infections. Untreated, they may harm the mother and child. Antibiotics that pass the placenta are safe during pregnancy. Some antibiotics are unsafe or just safe at specific stages of pregnancy. We’ll cover safe and unsafe antibiotics. If you used a dangerous antibiotic before becoming pregnant, we’ll cover that too.

In This Article

What Are Antibiotics?

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

Why I Need Antibiotics during Pregnancy?

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

Is It Safe To Take Antibiotics During Pregnancy?

Is It Safe To Take Antibiotics D

So you have an infection that may need treatment. And the doctor prescribes a course of antibiotics. The immediate question that will strike your mind is how safe is the use of antibiotics during pregnancy time?

Well, it depends. Some of the antibiotics are quite safe and can be easily taken during pregnancy time. At the same time, some are lethal for the baby, and many medicines 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 baby too.

Antibiotics In The First Trimester

The first trimester is a crucial one – on one side, the pregnancy hormones are running high, and on the other hand, the baby is experiencing rapid development in the form of organs. It is for this reason that pregnant women have advised the most care during the first trimester, and it comes as no surprise that antibiotics would be prescribed only if very, very necessary cases only.

Sometimes when you fall ill, there is no escape from taking antibiotics in spite of their 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 a medicine is also dependent upon other important factors such as the duration of its intake, its quantity or dosage and which trimester of pregnancy you are in at present also considered.

Antibiotics in the second trimester:

Giving antibiotics like (macrolides or clindamycin) during the second trimester of pregnancy. Pregnant women at risk of preterm births can lower it. But recent research also says that giving metronidazole alone in the second trimester is linked with a higher risk of preterm birth.

Classification Of Antibiotics

Classification Of Antibiotics...

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

  • 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 benefits outweigh the risks
  • 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 two 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 birth issues. But recent research has disapproved of the wrong notion. So, metronidazole is regarded as a safe drug and is used for treating vaginal infections in pregnancy time.

Pregnancy UTI Antibiotics

Urinary tract infection is quite a common condition encountered in pregnant women. Your doctor prescribes nitrofurantoin (Macrobid). The drug can be taken as long as the pregnancy has not reached 36 weeks. When your 36th week has started to avoid taking antibiotics as it can adversely affect the 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 folic acid absorption and can cause neural tube defects in the newborn baby.

Antibiotics That Should Be Strictly Avoid During Pregnancy

Antibiotics That Should Be Strictly Avoid During Pregnancy..

Antibiotics that should be strictly avoided during pregnancy time altogether are:

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

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

  • Ciprofloxacin
  • Bactrim
  • Doxycycline
  • Furadantin
  • Macrobid
  • Macrodantin
  • Minocycline
  • Tetracycline

Precautions When Taking Antibiotics During Pregnancy

Here are some useful safety tips for ensuring the health of the mother as well as the baby at pregnancy:

  • Never make the folly of treating a viral infection with antibiotics for two reasons. First, the antibiotics will not cure the infection, and second, their use will render you antibiotic resistant so when you need antibiotics, they won’t be effective
  • Eat a 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 to keep infections at bay
  • Avoid using other’s towels or toilets. This prevents the transmission of many infections from it

Birth Defects Caused By Antibiotics During Pregnancy

birth deffects..

Antibiotics can cause life-threatening severe birth issues in babies. Those defeats are mentioned below:

  • Anencephaly (a lethal malformation of the 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 for pregnant women:

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

**Please seek your doctor’s advice before taking any antibiotics during pregnancy**

Antibiotics during pregnancy, whether safe or not safe, should be used when prescribed by a doctor. While finding a 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 to ask about the antibiotics being advised to you by the doctor. Better to clarify and everything clearly with the doctor at this time. After all, the health of your baby is under question!


1. Which Antibiotics Can Cause Miscarriage?

The use of certain antibiotics during the early stages of pregnancy was associated with a greater likelihood of spontaneous abortion before 20 weeks. Antibiotics such as quinolones, tetracyclines, sulfonamides, metronidazole, and macrolides were included in this category (except erythromycin).

2. Can Antibiotics Cause Preeclampsia?

The risk of pre-eclampsia was found higher among pregnant women who needed a prescription for antibiotics. Preeclampsia rates are much higher in women who take methamphetamine during pregnancy.

3. Do Antibiotics Pass Through The Placenta?

Medicines having molecular weights below 500 g/mol may easily pass the placenta and reach the developing baby. Medicines having molecular weights over 500 g/mol have a more difficult time crossing the placenta, while medications with molecular weights above 1000 g/mol are unable to pass the placental barrier at all. Many commonly used antibiotics are small molecules (those with a molecular weight of less than 500 g/mol) and they are capable of passing through the placenta.



Editorial Team,

With a rich experience in pregnancy and parenting, our team of experts create insightful, well-curated, and easy-to-read content for our to-be-parents and parents at all stages of parenting.Read more.

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