Can You Take Antibiotics During Pregnancy?

Pregnant Woman Examining Prescription in Pharmacy

Pregnancy can be an exciting time in a woman's life, but what if she becomes ill and requires antibiotics? Is it safe to take antibiotics during pregnancy, and do they have any effect on the developing baby?

Learn when antibiotics may be used safely during pregnancy to fight infections and what types of antibiotics are typically recommended.

Why Might You Need Antibiotics During Pregnancy?

A dentist may prescribe antibiotics under several conditions, as an article in the International Dental Journal describes, including:

  • If a patient has an odontogenic infection inside a tooth, such as a dental abscess
  • If a patient has a non-odontogenic infection, such as a salivary gland infection
  • If a patient scheduled to undergo dental treatment is at high risk of developing infective endocarditis, a type of heart infection

Dentists prescribe antibiotics carefully, as inappropriate use of antibiotics can lead to drug-resistant bacteria. Additionally, taking antibiotics can cause severe side effects in certain situations. If a pregnant woman has any of the conditions listed above, her dental and medical providers should work together to determine the best treatment plan.

It is generally safe to perform dental work on pregnant patients, according to the Mayo Clinic. In particular, if a pregnant woman has severe oral pain or swelling, it's important to see a dentist immediately and take any medications as directed. Not treating an infection during pregnancy can have serious consequences that outweigh the possible risks of taking antibiotics during pregnancy. For this reason, you should always discuss any health concerns you have — oral or otherwise — with your doctor or dental care provider.

Which Antibiotics Are Safe?

According to the Mayo Clinic, the following antibiotics are safe to take during pregnancy:

  • Cephalosporins, including cefaclor and cephalexin
  • Clindamycin
  • Erythromycin
  • Penicillins, including amoxicillin and ampicillin

Risks of Taking Antibiotics During Pregnancy

Experts believe some antibiotics are believed to have risks if taken during pregnancy.

The Mayo Clinic mentions how tetracyclines can discolor a developing baby's teeth and are, therefore, not recommended for use after the 15th week of pregnancy. Tetracyclines are broad-spectrum antibiotics which are deposited within forming teeth and may cause gray staining, as an article in the Journal of Clinical and Experimental Dentistry describes. This staining can be severe and may require invasive dental treatment in the future, such as bleaching, veneers or crowns, to remedy. An alternative antibiotic should be prescribed during pregnancy whenever possible.

There has also been some suggestion that macrolide antibiotics can increase the risk of cerebral palsy or epilepsy in a newborn when they are taken during pregnancy, according to research in PLOS ONE. These antibiotics, apart from erythromycin, should only be prescribed when there is no alternative and after consulting with a specialist, according to the NHS.

Just because some antibiotics are not recommended during pregnancy doesn't mean that all antibiotics are unsafe. Your dentist will prescribe the safest antibiotics during pregnancy at the safest dosage. If you have concerns regarding medications you are prescribed during pregnancy, you should discuss these with your doctor or dentist.

This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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Common Conditions During PREGNANCY

To help minimize any risks during pregnancy, here is some general advice and some common conditions to be on the lookout for:

  1. Gum disease – during pregnancy, teeth and gums need special attention. Regular tooth brushing twice daily, flossing once daily, eating a balanced diet and visiting the dentist regularly will help reduce dental problems that accompany pregnancy.

  2. Enamel erosion – for some women, morning sickness is a major symptom of pregnancy. Along with the nausea comes additional acid that, if left in your mouth, can erode your teeth. Be sure to rinse your mouth out with water or with a fluoride mouthwash to keep the acid level under control.

  3. Dry mouth – pregnancy dry mouth can put women at a greater risk for problems such as tooth decay and infections. Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated and chew sugarless gum to enhance production of saliva.