Is it safe to take antibiotics during pregnancy?
Answer From Mary Marnach, M.D.
Antibiotics are commonly prescribed during pregnancy. However, the specific type of medication must be chosen carefully. 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 and for how long, how much you take, and the possible effects it might have on your pregnancy.
Here's a sampling of antibiotics generally considered safe during pregnancy:
- Penicillins, including amoxicillin (Amoxil, Larotid) and ampicillin
- Cephalosporins, including cefaclor and cephalexin (Keflex)
- Clindamycin (Cleocin, Clinda-Derm, Clindagel)
Certain other antibiotics are believed to pose risks during pregnancy. For example, tetracyclines can affect bone development and discolor a developing baby's teeth. Tetracyclines aren't recommended for use after the fifth week of pregnancy. Sulfonamides might pose a small risk of heart conditions, cleft lip or palate, and jaundice. Sulfonamides are generally avoided during the first trimester of pregnancy and near the time of delivery.
If an antibiotic is the best way to treat your condition, your doctor will prescribe the safest antibiotic and dosage. If you have questions or concerns about the use of an antibiotic during pregnancy, talk to your doctor.
Aug. 25, 2022
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See more Expert Answers
- Landon MB, et al., eds. Drugs and environmental agents in pregnancy and lactation: Teratology, epidemiology, and patient management. In: Gabbe's Obstetrics: Normal and Problem Pregnancies. 8th ed. Elsevier; 2021. https://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed June 6, 2021.
- Fan H, et al. Associations between macrolide antibiotics prescribing during pregnancy and adverse child outcomes in the UK: Population-based cohort study. The BMJ. 2020; doi:10.1136/bmj.m331.
- Lockwood CJ, et al. Prenatal care: Patient education, health promotion, and safety of commonly used drugs. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/search. Accessed June 6, 2021.
- Chestnut DH, et al., eds. Pharmacology during pregnancy and lactation. In: Chestnut's Obstetric Anesthesia: Principles and Practice. 6th ed. Elsevier; 2020. https://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed June 6, 2021.
- Clindamycin. MotherToBaby. https://mothertobaby.org/fact-sheets/clindamycin-pregnancy/. Accessed June 6, 2021.
- Tetracycline. MotherToBaby. https://mothertobaby.org/fact-sheets/tetracycline-pregnancy/. Accessed June 12, 2021.
- Sulfamethozole trimethoprim (Bactrim or Septra). MotherToBaby. https://mothertobaby.org/fact-sheets/sulfamethoxazoletrimethoprim-bactrim-septra-pregnancy/. Accessed June 12, 2021.
- Marnach ML (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic. June 12, 2021.