Advise Me

Is It Safe to Take Antibiotics While I’m Pregnant?

When you’re pregnant, there’s usually a laundry list of to-dos and not-to-dos for the nine months you’re growing a baby or babies. On the list of no-nos are some medications—even over-the-counter ones.

While any medication should be only used if absolutely necessary and prescribed by your health care provider, what happens if you get sick and require an antibiotic? Should you take it?

We spoke with Salina Baldwin, DO, a Banner Health OBGYN in Arizona, who shared what you should know about taking antibiotics during pregnancy.

Are antibiotics safe for me and my unborn baby?

Antibiotics are commonly prescribed for infections during pregnancy, but the specific type of medication should be chosen carefully.

“Antibiotics are generally safe to take during pregnancy for mom and baby,” Dr.  Baldwin said. “There are certain antibiotics that aren’t given during pregnancy due to risks of birth defects, so it’s always best to check with your provider whether certain ones are safe to use before taking anything.”

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s list of pharmaceutical pregnancy categories help doctors (and you) know the prenatal safety of medications.

  • Common antibiotics reported to be used in pregnancy include cephalosporins like cephalexin, penicillin like amoxicillin and certain erythromycins, azithromycin and clindamycin (Cleocin).
  • Other antibiotics, such as Bactrim, tetracycline and sulfonamides, are believed to pose risks during pregnancy and should generally be avoided.

“If an antibiotic is the best way to treat a condition, your doctor will always prescribe the safest one,” Dr. Baldwin reassured. “You can always ask your doctor for the pregnant category designation of any medication you may be prescribed.”

Why might I need an antibiotic during pregnancy?

Although not every ache and pain will require medications or antibiotics, if you have a bacterial infection, you’ll want to get it treated. That’s because if your infection is left untreated, it could lead to a host of problems and complications for you and your baby.

“Antibiotics work to rid our bodies of bacteria that may not normally be present,” Dr. Baldwin said. “During pregnancy, certain conditions like urinary tract infections and vaginal infections may need to be treated with antibiotics. There are also conditions during pregnancy where antibiotics are given to decrease the risk of the fetus getting an infection, such as group B strep.”

Talk to your health care provider

Just because some antibiotics aren’t recommended during pregnancy, doesn’t mean they are unsafe. If you have any questions or concerns about the medications you are prescribed during pregnancy, talk to your doctor or a Banner Health provider. You should also make your doctor aware of any other medications you may be taking and any allergies or health conditions.

If your pregnant brain has you up at night with concerns, don’t hesitate to call Banner Health’s Nurses Now for help at 888-259-9494. Our experienced nursing staff offers health care advice 24/7.

For other pregnancy-related articles, check out:

Gynecology Women's Health Pregnancy