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Taking Antibiotics Early on in Pregnancy does not lead to Birth Defects, Study Finds

Update Date: Oct 30, 2015 04:18 PM EDT

Pregnant women who need to take antibiotics can breathe a sigh of relief. A new Canadian study found that two of the most commonly prescribed antibiotics for pregnant women do not increase their risk of birth defects.

According to the experts, four out of 10 pregnant women often get antibiotics, with azithromycin and clarithromycin being the two most commonly prescribed one. These two antibiotics belong to a class of drugs known as macrolides.

To determine if there were any adverse effects of taking these macrolides, the researchers analyzed more than 135,000 pregnancies within the province of Quebec. They also used data taken from Quebec's public pharmaceutical insurance program. Overall, almost two percent of the women were given macrolides during the first trimester. Roughly 10 percent of the all of the babies born had major birth defects.

When the research examined the link between taking macrolides and the birth defects, they did not find an association.

"With penicillin, macrolides are amongst the most used medications in the general population and in pregnancy. However, debate remained on whether it is the infections or in fact the macrolides used to treat them that put women and their unborn child at greater risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes, including birth defects," study co-leader Anick Bérard, a professor of pharmacy at the University of Montreal, explained. "We therefore aimed to estimate the risk of major congenital malformations after fetal exposure to the two most commonly used macrolides, and failed to find any."

The team added that more research should be done to determine the effects of less commonly prescribed antibiotics on pregnant women.

The findings were published in the journal, Pharmacoepidemiology and Drug Safety.

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