21 February 2020

New research on antibiotic use and early pregnancy

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A new study reported in the media this week may have created confusion for pregnant women, prompting Melbourne IVF to provide a summary of the study findings.

A fertility specialist from Melbourne IVF has reviewed the study, published in The BMJ which suggests a common group of antibiotics in early pregnancy may increase the risk of major birth defects.

Macrolide class antibiotics includes widely used antibiotics such as Erythromycin, Clarithromycin and Azithromycin. These antibiotics are often prescribed to treat common bacterial infections including genito-urinary, upper respiratory and soft tissue infections. They have a slightly broader spectrum of effectiveness, compared to Penicillin, and are often used for similar indications in patients who are allergic or sensitive to Penicillin.

About 1 in 10 pregnancies in the study group of over one million were exposed to either Penicillin or Macrolides.

Dr Alex Polyakov from Melbourne IVF said: I do not believe the findings of this study should alarm patients.

“While this is a significant and clinically important finding, an absolute risk of congenital, and specifically cardiac, malformations was found to be small,” commented Dr Alex Polyakov from Melbourne IVF, part of Virtus Group.

“Women who have taken Macrolides before discovering that they are pregnant can be reassured that even though there appears to be an increased risk of cardiovascular congenital malformations, the absolute risk of these abnormalities remains small,” said Dr Polyakov.

The study by Heng Fan and colleagues examined risks associated with the use of macrolide antibiotics in pregnancy and congenital malformations, such as heart malformations, in offspring.

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