A recently published study has found that taking common antibiotics during the first trimester of pregnancy has been linked to birth defects.
The U.K. population-based cohort study used records from the Clinical Practice Research Datalink (CPRD), a large, anonymous primary care database that includes 6.9% of the European country’s population, according to the findings published in the British Medical Journal Wednesday.
Researchers assessed the link between macrolide antibiotics prescribed during pregnancy and “major malformations,” which researchers cited as including cerebral palsy, epilepsy and autism spectrum disorder.
The study included 104,605 children born from 1990 to 2016 whose mothers were prescribed macrolides or penicillin from the time they were four weeks pregnant until they gave birth.
Macrolides are a kind of antibiotic that includes those used to treat bronchitis, pneumonia, urinary tract infections and sexually transmitted diseases, CNN reported. Typically, they’re used for patients who are allergic to penicillin, another type of antibiotic used to treat bacterial infections.
Results showed major malformations in 186 of 8632 children whose mothers were prescribed macrolides during their pregnancy and in 1,666 of 95,973 children whose mothers were prescribed penicillin. Macrolides prescribed in the first three months of pregnancy were associated with an increased risk of any major malformation compared to penicillin. Macrolides taken in the first trimester were specifically linked to an increased risk of heart deformities. Genital malformations were found when macrolides were prescribed during any trimester.
“These findings show that macrolides should be used with caution during pregnancy and if feasible alternative antibiotics should be prescribed until further research is available,” the study states.
Still, Ruth Gilbert, a professor at the University College London, cautioned against pregnant women not taking antibiotics altogether.
“If you've got a bacterial infection, it's really important to take antibiotics because infection itself can be really damaging to the unborn baby,” Gilbert told CNN.
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