Those who are pregnant often worry about whether it's safe to take certain medications, even something seemingly routine like cold medicine. While researchers know for sure that there are some drugs that are not safe for people to take during pregnancy, there are others that they still aren't sure about. According to a new study, some common antibiotics may be linked to miscarriage if they're taken during early pregnancy.
As The Microbiology Society explains, anything that prevents bacteria from growing and spreading can be considered an antibiotic. Most people think of antibiotics in the form of a medication their doctor prescribes when they're sick. What many people outside of the medical profession may not realize is that there are many different types of antibiotics, and they work against specific kinds of bacteria. Contrary to popular belief, taking antibiotics won't help you recover from an infection caused by a virus, because antibiotic drugs only work against bacteria, according to the CDC. There are many illnesses and infections that are caused by bacteria, though, and some of them are very common. There are many that can occur during pregnancy, and for this reason doctors have wanted to make sure that the antibiotics they prescribe to treat them are safe for a pregnant patient to take.
Urinary tract infections and conditions like vaginosis are not only fairly common in pregnancy, but can be very uncomfortable and distressing. There are certain antibiotics that work very well in treating these infections, which not only provides much-needed relief, but can help prevent complications that could be dangerous for not only the parent-to-be, but the fetus as well, according to Medscape. More serious bacterial infections — like Listeriosis or several kinds of sexually transmitted diseases — can also pose a significant risk, and therefore a course of antibiotics is often deemed necessary.
A new study from Université de Montréal in Canada — published Monday in the Canadian Medical Association Journal — found that some types of antibiotics may be associated with a higher risk of miscarriage. They looked at patients in the Quebec Pregnancy Cohort — a very large sampling of women spanning more than a decade — to see if they could find an association between antibiotic use and pregnancy loss in the patients who had miscarriages. There were more than 8,700 patients in the cohort who had miscarriages before the 20th week of pregnancy; 16.4 percent of those patients had used antibiotics while pregnant, according to the study. That was higher than the percentage in the control group, which was 12.6 percent.
Researchers also looked at the other things these women had in common: of the patients in the cohort who miscarried, they were more likely to be older, live alone, and have other health problems. The researchers pointed out in their study that, while they accounted for this in their findings, it's possible that the severity of the infection for which they received antibiotics could have influenced the outcome of the pregnancy. The study found that several classes of antibiotics seemed to be linked to the risk of miscarriage, including macrolides, quinolones, tetracyclines, sulfonamindes, and metronidazole. Many antibiotics are more commonly known by their brand names or generic names, so if a patient isn't sure what type of antibiotic they're being given, they can ask their doctor or pharmacist when they pick up their prescription.
It should be noted that the researchers did not find an increased risk for erythromycin and nitrofurantoin (Macrobid) — both of which are commonly prescribed for UTIs in pregnant women. It's clear that more research on the subject is needed, especially since the researchers stipulated that the infection for which these pregnant women were being treated could have influenced their miscarriages, rather than the antibiotic acting on its own as the cause. Still, the study can help women and their partners make informed decisions when it comes to the type of antibiotic they use, and more information is always better.