Is it safe to take antibiotics during pregnancy?

Answers from Roger W. Harms, M.D.

Antibiotics are commonly prescribed during pregnancy. The specific medication must be chosen carefully, however. Some antibiotics are OK to take during pregnancy, while others are not. Safety depends on various factors, including the type of antibiotic, when in your pregnancy you take the antibiotic, how much you take and for how long.

Here's a sampling of antibiotics generally considered safe during pregnancy:

  • Amoxicillin
  • Ampicillin
  • Clindamycin
  • Erythromycin
  • Penicillin

Certain other antibiotics should be avoided during pregnancy. For example, tetracyclines — such as doxycycline and minocycline — can damage a pregnant woman's liver and discolor a developing baby's teeth.

In addition, it's important to note that two classes of antibiotics commonly used to treat urinary tract infections — nitrofuran derivatives and sulfonamides — have been associated with rare birth defects. Although there's no direct proof that these antibiotics cause birth defects, additional research is needed. In the meantime, use of these medications is still warranted in some cases.

If an antibiotic is the best way to treat your condition, your health care provider will prescribe the safest antibiotic at the safest dosage.

Sep. 17, 2011