Common antibiotics could be causing birth defects - says a recent study

  • A recent cohort study warns pregnant women using antibiotics erythromycin, clarithromycin, and azithromycin.

  • Findings of the study are based on the Clinical Practice Research Datalink (CPRD) records, a huge scale primary care database covering 6.9% of the UK population.

  • The study asks safety leaflets to report the concerns about the safety of these antibiotics and recommend alternatives for pregnant women in their first trimester.
A new study advises pregnant women to avoid the most commonly prescribed macrolide antibiotics like erythromycin, clarithromycin, and azithromycin and penicillin especially during the first trimester which is crucial for the healthy formation of the baby. The large scale population based cohort study suspects there are connections between using macrolide antibiotics during pregnancy and the most common malformations and other defects in the growing fetus that could result in a range of disorders in children after birth.

The study group

The study cohort consisted of 104,605 children born between 1990 and 2016 whose mothers used one macrolide monotherapy such as erythromycin, clarithromycin or azithromycin or a penicillin monotherapy between the fourth gestational week and delivery. Two negative cohorts included 82,314 children whose mothers used macrolides or penicillin before they conceived the child and 53,735 children who were the siblings of the children considered for the cohort study.

Findings of the study

The study has significant number of valid observations to suspect the risks of any major malformations and a range of system specific malformations connected to nervous, gastrointestinal, genital, urinary and cardiovascular systems following the prescription of a monolide or penicillin during any one of the trimesters or anytime during the pregnancy period. In addition, the study also suspects the risks of cerebral palsy, epilepsy, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, autism spectrum disorder, and some others.


The study suspects a strong correlation between using macrolide antibiotics during the first trimester of the pregnancy which increased the risk of a number of major malformations, especially the cardiovascular malformations when compared with penicillin antibiotics. Prescribing macrolides during the pregnancy could result in genital malformations. Hence the study concludes that the safety leaflets accompanying these medicines must state the safety concerns associated with the use of these medicines and must warn the customers to use them with caution during pregnancy. Also, the drug manufacturers must also mention some alternatives to these prescriptions until further researches come out with some more valid findings and recommendations


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