The routine use of antibiotics during labor isn't uncommon, but it can cause postpartum problems. You may have an allergic reaction to the antibiotic, which could cause more postpartum experience with side effects. Also, antibiotics can cause yeast infections by wiping out the healthy bacteria in your system that keep fungi in check. Nursing moms can also get yeast infections of the nipples, called thrush, which can be painful for both mom and baby.
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Is it Safe to Take Antibiotics During Pregnancy?
By Sandra B Wilson
How safe are antibiotics when taken during pregnancy? The answer you will probably get from most experts is: it depends. Since there is such a large variety of antibiotics available, and much depends on dosage and length of use, it is very difficult to generalize as to their safety. Using antibiotics during pregnancy is sometimes unavoidable, since pregnant women are as susceptible to illness and infection as anyone else, and sometimes even more.
Some antibiotics are perfectly safe, some are known to pose risks to a fetus, and many more fall somewhere in between. There are a great many antibiotics where it is simply not known what risks they pose to a pregnant woman because those risks simply haven't been studied in enough detail. In the case of these, you will need to weigh the risks of taking the antibiotics during pregnancy versus the potential risks your illness poses to your unborn baby. Another thing to consider is how high the dosage will be and how long you will be taking it.
Taking antibiotics during pregnancy can be quite safe if they are in the penicillin family, cephalosporins, and erythromycin. The drug metronidazole used to treat some vaginal infections used to be suspected of causing birth defects, but the research has not substantiated that claim, and it is now considered generally safe for pregnant women to use. Many pregnant women suffer from urinary tract infections, and the drug nitrofurantoin can be taken up to the 36th week of pregnancy. If you continue after that point, there is a small chance it could destroy some of the baby's red blood cells if taken up to a few days before delivery.
If you must take antibiotics during pregnancy for a urinary tract infection, you may wish to avoid Bactrin and Septra, because they contain trimethoprim, and this compound blocks the production of folic acid. Folic acid is critical to your baby's development because it reduces the risk of certain birth defects. If for some reason you must take antibiotics during pregnancy that do contain trimethoprim, be sure to take a daily folic acid supplement of at least 400 mgs. Check to see if your prenatal vitamin contains this- many will have twice this amount. A few other antibiotics to avoid during pregnancy are streptomycin and tetracycline. The first can cause hearing loss in the baby, and the latter can cause discoloration of the baby's teeth.
If you are still wondering how safe are antibiotics when taken during pregnancy, be sure to talk to your doctor. Those that are safe are generally well-known, as well as those that are less so. If you must take antibiotics during pregnancy, keep in mind that even those whose safety isn't proven will probably have very few adverse effects if taken in the minimum effective dosage for a limited period of time. Also realize that your doctor is aware of the risks, and will only prescribe antibiotics if she feels that your illness is potentially riskier to your baby than the antibiotics themselves.
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