It is quite common to take antibiotics during pregnancy. This is because there are several ailments where a pregnant woman may need antimicrobial treatment and there is no other way to treat it.
For example, a doctor would need to prescribe antibiotics to a pregnant woman with a urinary tract infection (known as asymptomatic bacterial uremia in its mildest form).
But the point is that it can harm the baby to use antibiotics during pregnancy if one does not choose the right type. As you know, there are always side effects that one should consider when it comes to drugs. They could actually affect both a pregnant woman and her fetus.
As with everything else, there are those who believe that pregnant women should not take medication at all, but that is just a myth. Science has already proven that it is safe to use some drugs and antibiotics are among them.
However, complete abstinence during pregnancy applies to certain drugs. For example, prescription and over-the-counter antimicrobials may not be used during pregnancy. This is because the results can be fatal.
How do antibiotics affect pregnancy?
The effect of this drug on the body is very similar in pregnant and non-pregnant people. Almost all types of antibiotics leave one’s body when urinating.
However, the function of the kidneys and the volume of urine produced increase both in a pregnant woman. This excretes the drug faster and the concentration of it in the blood is therefore lower.
Although it comes out faster , what researchers are evaluating in terms of antibiotics is its ability to penetrate the placenta and thus reach the fetus.
Therefore, if the drug penetrates the placenta, then scientists will want to know if it is harmful to the fetus or not. A fetal drug is one that can lead to congenital malformations or miscarriages.
The greatest fetal harm of antibiotics can occur in the first three months of pregnancy. These drugs no longer have an effect on the formation of organs, but they do have an effect on their functions. It can actually be just as harmful to a baby, even when their bodies are fully developed.
Likewise, the use of antibiotics during pregnancy can also affect the placenta. This is because antibiotics, which alter the function of the placenta, also limit the development of the fetus. They could thus lead to low birth weight.
Safe types of antibiotics
The use of antibiotics during pregnancy is harmful if you do not respect the indications and scientific knowledge about them. However, anyone who follows the proper protocols can apply them safely.
Penicillin and its family of antibiotics are the safest for a pregnant woman and her fetus. We know this because no research has found a link between these drugs and birth defects. This is the case even during prolonged use.
The same reasoning applies to cephalosporins, which are also related to penicillin. They are safe to use. They are also very useful in treating urinary tract infections.
Another type of antibiotic typically used against urinary tract infections in pregnant women due to its safety is nitrofurantoin. This antimicrobial agent is especially beneficial for pregnant women who are allergic to penicillin. It is thus a good choice.
There is favorable evidence for azithromycin in studies performed in pregnant animals. This is because they belong to category B medicines for pregnant women.
These drugs are considered safe to use during pregnancy. This is primarily due to the results of research with animals and observation during its use in clinics – which happens quite often. As you can see, all these experiences confirm that they do not cause birth defects.
Antibiotics that are not safe to take during pregnancy
Among the antibiotics that are harmful and therefore not recommended during pregnancy, we find:
- Aminoglycosides. There is a link between consuming them and damaging the kidneys of a fetus and congenital deafness.
- Tetracycline. These affect the growth of the bones and cartilage of the fetus and also the structure of their teeth.
- Fluoroquinolones. They can change cartilage, at least according to clinical experience.
One must also consider the nephrotoxicity of these types of antibiotics in the mother, not just the risk to her fetus. There may be a side effect in the kidney function of the pregnant woman, especially when combined with other types of antibiotics.
Just like with Category B drugs, we need to mention Category X here. This classification mentioned in the package leaflets is quite informative.
Pregnant women should avoid category X antibiotics. This is because research on animals and humans, as well as clinical experience, indicate that they are harmful to the fetus. Therefore, do not take any Category X medicines while you are pregnant.
Self-medication is always a bad idea. Talk to a doctor who can prescribe and guide you on the proper use of antibiotics during pregnancy. That way, you will protect both your and your baby’s health.