When Are Antibiotics Not Okay During Pregnancy?

ByAnisa Arsenault
Associate Editor
Updated
Feb 2017
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Photo: Shutterstock

Even the most cautious moms-to-be can find themselves sick with a virus or infection during pregnancy. And if they do, it’s reassuring that researchers from the University of Montreal recently vetted common antibiotics, finding no link to birth defects. But a new study poses a question: Is it a good idea to take antibiotics the whole way through pregnancy?

The European Lung Foundation found that even when confounding factors like a mother’s smoking, asthma or respiratory illness history were accounted for, a link between infant wheezing and taking antibiotics during the third trimester of pregnancy remained.

“There is some evidence to suggest that taking antibiotics at this stage alters the composition of the mother’s bacteria, which when transmitted to the newborn may modify the immune system development and explain the increased susceptibility to infections and wheeze,” says Dr. Maja Popovic, lead author of the study.

“As we identified that this risk still exists at this late stage of pregnancy, we would suggest that more research is needed to understand this association and clarify the underlying mechanism so that practical public health interventions could be developed in order to minimise unnecessary antibiotic exposures during pregnancy.”

In other words, more research is needed to actually do something about this. Still, these new findings, published in the European Respiratory Journal, back previous studies that eliminating antibiotics during pregnancy could keep baby asthma-free.

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