Antibiotics and Pregnancy: Understanding the Risks and Benefits

July 7, 2023
Jyotshna agiwal – July 7, 2023

Who is fully immune to bacterial infections in today’s time? Even fitness enthusiasts come under…

Who is fully immune to bacterial infections in today’s time? Even fitness enthusiasts come under the attack of bacteria and have to take antibiotics to get over the health problem. Antibiotics are powerful medications that help in treating infections by destroying the bacteria at the source or preventing it from further reproduction. They are your saviours! 

What Is the Need of Taking Antibiotics?

You must be wondering that the human body has the same mechanism so what is the need of taking antibiotics? It is true that the body’s immune system is empowered to kill bacteria and contain them at their source. But, the immune system is not sometimes equipped to deal with ultra-powerful harmful bacteria. Antibiotics are very helpful in this delicate situation. 

If a fully-functioning normal human body can come under the attack of bacteria, imagine what would it be like for a pregnant woman if she has to take the hit of a bacterial infection! She has life growing inside her and by hook or by crook, she has to hold back the infection before it gets to the baby. For this, she needs the help of secure antibiotics. And let us tell you that you can get plenty of help in this situation!   

But, should a pregnant woman take antibiotics to recover from the bacterial infection? Worry not because we have put together all the relevant information that will help you decide the use of antibiotics during your pregnancy. Rest assured, you won’t have to fall weak against infections as you have antibiotics in your quiver as your mightiest arrows.  

Antibiotics and Pregnancy: an Overview

A woman’s body undergoes many changes during pregnancy. True. But, with advancements in modern science, you have the support of life-saving antibiotics that can shield your body against infections. 

The only thing to take care of whilst popping pills during pregnancy is that women are allowed only certain antibiotics. Women can take certain antibiotics without fretting about anything but some antibiotics are completely out of bounds for them. Once you know which ones to consume and which ones to not, you are perfectly safe! 

Let’s skim through a few checkpoints that will clear our understanding of the subject. 

Why Do Infections Need to be Treated Promptly During Pregnancy?

Just like no one likes mosquitoes or the smell of stale food, no one likes getting infections. They wreak havoc in your body and you are not at your best during this period. The most common symptom of infection is fever which is another nightmare that no one likes to deal with.

If a woman gets infected during pregnancy, she experiences pain and irritation 10x than a normal human being. If the infection is left untreated for a considerable period, the bacteria can enter your bloodstream and cause blood poisoning. Furthermore, the developing fetus is always at health risk if the mother is unwell. 

It is extremely important to address infections in pregnant women as they should have optimal health to provide nourishment to the baby. If the mother has a fever or sore throat, she might not eat well or experience a bad mood. Therefore, pregnant ladies should turn to antibiotics for treating infections in their bodies. 

You automatically get an upside-down frown on your face after reading or hearing about infections. But we are here to return your smile to you with our sunny positive information regarding antibiotics. 

Challenges of Treating Infections in Pregnant Women 

There are two sides to antibiotics. Some antibiotics are a bane for pregnant women but other antibiotics are a boon for them. There are some antibiotics that you should completely avoid during pregnancy. You don’t have to make an effort of remembering all of them. You just have to take antibiotics after consulting your doctor

If you are taking a doctor-approved antibiotic, you have your work cut out for you. It is important to consult your doctor because antibiotics come with their share of side effects. They can harm the baby’s growth and cause other health problems. 

The doctor will have to be extremely careful while prescribing antibiotics to pregnant ladies. Some antibiotics are forbidden for every pregnant woman as they run the risk of getting to the baby through the placenta and affecting its growth. 

The nature of antibiotics is paradoxical. On one hand, it saves lives but on the other hand, it has the potential to give rise to newer health complications. This is why it is extremely challenging to treat infections in pregnant women. Both you and your doctor should be fully aware of the risks and benefits of using antibiotics during pregnancy. 

Speaking about this, let’s assess the risks of using antibiotics during pregnancy. 

Risks of Antibiotics During Pregnancy

The availability of over-the-counter antibiotics and unlimited information on the internet have made us all doctors. Some of us have let off the need to consult a doctor before taking an antibiotic. But, is it really necessary to take this chance? 

Pregnant women should be utterly careful of what they put into their bodies whether it is food, drinks, or medicines. Whatever they eat, their beloved baby eats. Although there are risks, there are preventive measures too. All you need to know is that there are some risks using antibiotics during pregnancy but not all antibiotics carry these risks. 

Potential Adverse Effects on the Mother

A woman’s body undergoes many changes during the nine months of pregnancy. Her immune system starts behaving differently which results in multiple infections. Doctors suggest not consuming random antibiotics as they can cause side effects like nausea, vomiting, headaches, acidity, and diarrhea. 

Taking too many antibiotics can also make you resistant to them which means that if you develop a similar infection in the future, it will be very difficult to treat. Therefore, you must take antibiotics only during infections like urinary tract infections, kidney infections, amniotic fluid infections, appendicitis, strep throat, and others. 

Pregnant ladies are instructed by their doctors to not take any antibiotics before seeking permission from them. If you are pregnant, you certainly cannot take medicines that you took before your pregnancy without medical consultation. So, if you are taking doctor-approved antibiotics, you need not even know the risks of using them.  

But, what you should be aware of is that some antibiotics are completely forbidden for pregnant ladies. As long as you don’t consume them, you are fit and fine during your pregnancy. That’s what matters, does not it? The stay-away-from antibiotics are:

  • Tetracyclines – They are a group of antibiotics that include tetracycline, doxycycline, minocycline, oxytetracycline, etc. These antibiotics can cause your baby’s milk teeth to be stained and interfere with its bone growth in the initial years.  
  • Streptomycin – This antibiotic can pass through the placenta and reach your baby easily. They have high ototoxin levels and thus, can cause hearing problems in the child. 
  • Aminoglycosides – Taking this antibiotic in the later stages of your pregnancy can cause birth defects in the child. 
  • Sulfonamides – This antibiotic can increase the baby’s risk of developing heart conditions and even suffering from jaundice right after birth. 

Potential Adverse Effects on the Developing Fetus

We are saying this out loud just for the sake of saying it because we know that every pregnant woman’s first natural instinct is to protect her baby – a woman should keep in mind the safety of her child before consuming anything during pregnancy. Although the baby is protected by the placenta which acts as a barrier against harmful things, certain drugs can bypass the placenta, reach the baby, and affects its organs and growth. 

Some of the above-mentioned antibiotics can pass through the placenta and have harmful effects on the child’s development. Exposure to these antibiotics can create unwanted health complications in the child that can continue to grow even after the child is born. Some antibiotics are just not right for the fetus and cause side effects like stained teeth, slow bone growth, heart complications, hearing problems, and so on. 

The course of antibiotics can interfere with the child’s baseline immune system and prevent it from getting back to normal. They can also impact the microbial environment of the child and result in gut issues. 

Some antibiotics can also cause birth defects in the child. These include nitrofurantoin, sulfonamides, and kanamycin, among many others. The most common birth defects are vision and hearing loss, heart problems, and malformations. 

Although some antibiotics are harmful to the unborn child, leaving the infection untreated can also be equally harmful to it. Just like you don’t touch fire thinking it might harm you, you just don’t consume hard antibiotics during pregnancy. Your doctor will be at every step of your pregnancy ensuring that you take safe antibiotics and get well quickly! As long as you are in the right hands, you are guarded. 

Benefits of Antibiotics During Pregnancy

As we said, leaving infections untreated can also create complications in the unborn baby. Therefore, antibiotics are not all bad for pregnant ladies. Some antibiotics are a blessing in disguise as they can remove harmful bacteria from your body without harming you or your baby. 

With advancements in science and research, you have the opportunity to recover from infections without even the slightest doubt. You just have to be informed when to take an antibiotic. 

If you get any of the following infections, you should consult a healthcare provider for an antibiotic prescription. 

  • Urinary Tract Infections 
  • Strep Throat 
  • Kidney Infection 
  • Placenta Infection 
  • Bacterial Eye Infections like Pink Eye 
  • Bacterial Skin Infections 
  • Bacterial Vaginosis (BV)

Taking the right antibiotic for the right infection in the right dosage can never prove harmful for the mother or the baby. You are completely safe if you are consuming soft antibiotics for treating infections. 

Safe Antibiotic Use During Pregnancy

The most pertinent way of taking antibiotics during pregnancy is to follow your doctor’s advice at every stage. Since you might not know which categories of antibiotics might be harmful to your baby and it will be unwise to rely on the internet for such critical information, consulting your doctor is the best way to proceed to ensure the safe use of antibiotics. 

The safest antibiotics that you can take during pregnancy are:

  • Penicillin
  • Erythromycin
  • Ceftriaxone
  • Amoxicillin
  • Clindamycin
  • Cloxacillin
  • Cefotaxime
  • Flucloxacillin

See? You have so many antibiotics to pull infections out of your body. So, why do you need to take stress over a small infection that will go away in a few days? Just get a medical test done so that your doctor will prescribe only the essential antibiotic dosage. 

You must not take antibiotics if you have any of the following infections as they won’t be of any help and will not make any difference to your health. It is best to switch to home remedies to treat these problems. 

  • Sinus Infections 
  • Common Cold 
  • Sore Throat 
  • Runny Nose 
  • Flu 
  • Some Ear Infections

Antibiotic Categories and Pregnancy

There are five categories of antibiotics based on safety during pregnancy. These categories help the doctor to determine which antibiotics are safe for pregnant ladies and which are not. The categories of antibiotics are listed below. 

  • Category A – These are fool-proof antibiotics for the mother and the baby which means that they do not pose any harm to them. Interestingly, this category only includes one antibiotic – Mycostatin. 
  • Category B – These medicines are usually prescribed by doctors because they are not associated with any health complications. They include penicillin, amoxicillin, cefradine, azithromycin, and others. 
  • Category C – The antibiotics included in this category have not been researched enough to determine their effects on pregnant women. These include trimethoprim, cipro, biaxin, terazol, rifampin, and others. 
  • Category D – The antibiotics listed in this category can produce pregnancy complications. They are the ones that belong to the group of tetracyclines. 
  • Category X – Stay away from antibiotics like thalidomide and isotretinoin as they can cause abnormalities in the fetus. 

Final Word

You can get through your pregnancy smoothly even if you hit some infection hurdles along the way with the help of antibiotics. There are many antibiotics available readily to cure your infections in a few days without harming your body.

There is nothing to worry about the consumption of antibiotics during pregnancy. Just a little extra care and you will recover with your eyes shut! If you are skeptical, just talk to your doctor and he/she will make the process easy-breezy for you. Once you get a green signal from your doctor, you should proceed with the specifically recommended antibiotic treatment for your infection. 


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