Major Study Urges You to Stay Away From These Antibiotics During Pregnancy

Take your meds, but you should ask for second opinions on these antibiotics.
ByNatalie Escobar
Jul 2017
Illustration of a prescription bottle full of pills
Photo: Shutterstock

When you’re pregnant, it can be tricky to figure out which medicines are safe to take if birth defects are on your mind. Don’t get us wrong – we’re not anti-medicine here and you should take medicines as your doctor prescribes. When it comes to some antibiotics, though, a major study shows that pregnant moms should ask their doctors for an alternative prescription.

The antibiotics clindamycin, doxycycline, quinolones, macrolides, and penicillin V are associated with higher risks of birth defects, according to a study published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology. Canadian researchers studied 139,938 newborns and their moms’ use of prescription medicines from the first trimester through the first year of life. The antibiotics amoxicillin, nitrofurantoin or cephalosporins were not associated with increased risks. In case these names of high-risk antibiotics don’t sound familiar to you, here are common brand names:

  • Clindamycin: Evoclin, ClindaMax, Clindagel, Clinda-Derm, and Cleocin
  • Doxycycline: Oracea, Monodox, Vibra-Tabs, Atridox, Doryx, Morgidox, Alodox, Ocudox, Acticlate, Vibramycin, Adoxa, and more
  • Quinolones: drugs like ciprofloxacin, levofloxacin; brands like Maxaquin, Floxin, Noroxin, Tequin, Cipro I.V., Avelox and more
  • Macrolides: drugs like Erythromycin, Azithromycin, Clarithromycin, Roxithromycin; brands like ZMax, Zithromax, Biaxin, Dificid

Each of these antibiotics has different effects on different developing organs, researchers say. Clindamycin increases risks of malformed musculoskeletal systems by 67 percent, for example, while doxycycline doubles the risk of heart defects.

Researchers don’t want pregnant moms scared off antibiotics altogether, though. “Infection itself is associated with adverse pregnancy outcomes, and they must be treated,” senior author Anick Bérard told The New York Times. “Our study shows that we must think about which antibiotics to use.” So if the doctor prescribes you a bottle of risky antibiotics, request a switch instead of forgoing pills altogether.

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