Because pregnancy brings a lot of changes in a woman's body, expectant women are not exempt from infections or illnesses. Thus, their ob-gyn may need to prescribe them medications, even antibiotics to improve their conditon.
This may sound worrisome to someone who needs to watch what she takes in, but one must remember that not all antibiotics are the same. To ensure safety, the United States Food and Drugs Administration has divided pills into categories to help clinicians determine if they are safe for pregnant women.
Category A drugs are the safest to take during pregnancy. Category B drugs have been tested on animals and showed no adverse effect but with no adequate studies on humans. However, their potential benefits outweigh the potential risks in pregnancy, so it is possible that these may be prescribed if needed. Many antibiotics fall under Category B.
Antibiotics doctors avoid prescribing during pregnancy
Dr. Jinky Jordias, a Fellow of the Philippine Obstetrics and Gynecology Society (FPOGS) and a resource speaker at the Promama event held in Taguig on January 22, 2019, says, "Some [antibiotics] are considered to be safe but not all. [There are] some antibiotics that are already proven to have an embryogenic effect, which means they are harmful to the developing embryo or fetus. One good example is, we don't give chloramphenicol during pregnancy," he says.
Chloramphenicol is an antibiotic used to treat eye infections like conjunctivitis (commonly called sore eyes) or ear infections. Some findings associate the use of chloramphenicol with "gray baby syndrome" where the baby appears to have grayish skin. It is due to cyanosis where the lips and nail beds look blue from lack of oxygen in the blood. It could also cause low blood pressure, and possibly, death.
"We [also] don't give tetracycline [to pregnant women] because of the possibility of discoloration of the baby's teeth," adds Dr. Jordias.
According to Drugs.com, when used during the second half of pregnancy which is the phase of tooth development, "tetracyclines may cause permanent yellow-gray-brown discoloration of the teeth and enamel hypoplasia."
Some other antibiotics to avoid during pregnancy are the following:
Ciprofloxacin - used to treat urinary tract infections and some skin infections, this drug could potentially affect the baby's muscular and skeletal growth adversely.
Sulfonamides - commonly prescribed to treat bronchitis, bacterial meningitis, or diarrhea, the use of sulfonamides by the mother during pregnancy could cause jaundice to her baby.
Aside from these antibiotics, some over-the-counter drugs, like ibuprofen, a pain reliever, and lorazepam, which is a medication for anxiety, could also cause complications to pregnancy or miscarriage when taken in high dosages.
If you are unsure about the category where your prescribed drug falls, ask your doctor. Drugs that fall under Categories C and D may be harmful to pregnant women. Category X drugs may cause babies to have congenital heart problems, cleft palate, eye defects, hernia, and anencephaly, which is a malformation of the skull, according to Parents. If you are pregnant or are trying to become pregnant, you can ask your doctor about the pregnancy categories of prescribed medications.
However, not all antibiotics are harmful to pregnant women — a number of them may be used to treat infections when necessary. Says Dr. Jordias, "antibiotics for upper respiratory tract infection are safe for pregnant women, especially [if they] are having a bronchial asthma attack."
Ampicillin, augmentin, and erythromycin also belong to the safe list of drugs for pregnant women.