Study Takes a Closer Look at What Antibiotics During Pregnancy Mean for Baby

Read this before hitting the pharmacy.
ByAshley Edwards Walker
Contributing Writer
Published
Feb 2018
Illustration of a prescription bottle full of pills
Photo: Shutterstock

Getting sick is never fun, but especially not when you’re pregnant. And now, to make matters worse, a group of Australian researchers have found that taking antibiotics could have negative longer-term effects on both mom and baby.

The study, published in the International Journal of Epidemiology, found that the children of women who took antibiotics during their pregnancy were 20 percent more likely to develop an infection when compared to the children of women who did not take antibiotics while pregnant. And the more antibiotics the mom took closer to the delivery date, the greater the risk.

Professor David Burgner from the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute led the research effort, which required analyzing more than 750,000 Danish pregnancies that took place between 1997 to 2009. To get their results, his team compared birth records with the mother’s antibiotic use and hospital admission records of children with infections. “Males were at higher risk of infection if their mothers had taken antibiotics and the increased risk for both genders persisted throughout childhood,” he told ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Company).

Still, you shouldn’t clear out your medicine cabinet just yet. The study’s lead author, Dr. Jessica Miller, said researchers were not exactly sure what causes the increased risk, but they think it could have something to do with how the antibiotics change bacteria in the gut. “Impact on the gut microbiome could increase the susceptibility to infections in early childhood, possibly by suboptimal development,” she told ABC News.

Long story short: There’s not enough evidence for the Australian Medical Association (their version of the American Medical Association) to officially advise doctors to stop prescribing antibiotics to pregnant moms. In fact, the organization’s president, an obstetrician named Dr. Michael Gannon, told ABC News that even if the antibiotics are changing the mother’s stomach bacteria, “Pregnant women do need to take antibiotics for infections such urinary tract infections, or if they’re having surgical procedures.”

So obviously, more research is needed. But the silver lining is that Burgner said one potential solution might be for healthcare providers to prescribe probiotics for mother and baby to try and counteract the effect that the antibiotics have on pregnant women. But as always, should you become sick while pregnant, talk to your doctor to come up with a plan that you’re both comfortable with.

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