A study published today in the Canadian Medical Association Journal showed taking certain types of antibiotics during early pregnancy can increase the risk of miscarriage, or spontaneous abortions. But before you start freaking out, remember that not all antibiotics are the same.
In a review of more than 95,000 women ages 15 to 45 years old, from 1990 to 2009, at least 8,700 suffered a miscarriage during their first 20 weeks of pregnancy. Researchers found commonly prescribed classes of antibiotics such as macrolides, quinolones, tetracyclines, sulfonamides and metronidazole were linked to a 60 percent to two-fold increased risk of miscarriages compared to pregnant women who didn't take any antibiotics. Research was based on prescriptions filled for antibiotics instead of having women recall their medication use.
But it's also important to note that some of the most used antibiotics like penicillin, erythromycin (a macrolide) and nitrofurantoin were not associated with miscarriage.
Previous studies on antibiotics' effects on mother and fetus during pregnancy were conflicting, but this new study is one of the largest and most accurate. The team hopes these findings will be useful to policymakers.
While many expectant moms are hesitant to take antibiotics and doctors generally refrain from prescribing certain types, the use of antibiotics during pregnancy is still pretty common. According to the CDC, between 1997 and 2003, 29.7 percent of women in the U.S. reported using antibiotics three months before becoming pregnant or while pregnant, with penicillins being the most frequently reported.
That's probably because moms-to-be in their early stages of pregnancy are more susceptible to infections, especially urinary tract infections.
To be clear, the new findings aren't suggesting infections shouldn't be treated.
“The take-home message is that infections should be treated,” Dr. Anick Bérard, a pharmacy professor at the Université de Montréal and lead author of the study, tells Global News. “It’s not a question of treating versus not treating. Infections themselves have been associated with an increased risk of prematurity and low birth weight.”
Rather, it's a matter of doctors and patients fully understanding treatment options and researchers looking deeper into common antibiotics. For instance, Bérard and her team were the first to suggest nitrofurantoin, which is mostly used to treat UTIs, was actually linked to a decreased risk of miscarriage. Hopefully, more studies will replicate this finding.
So don't throw away those antibiotics just yet! Consult your doctor about the best options for you.