Antibiotic use in early pregnancy linked to alarming rate of miscarriages
07/18/2018 // Earl Garcia // Views

Women who use certain antibiotics during early pregnancy are at an increased risk of suffering miscarriage, according to a recent study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal. As part of the study, a team of researchers at the University of Montreal in Canada pooled data from the Quebec Pregnancy Cohort between 1998 and 2009. The experts compared cases of the more than 8,700 women who had a miscarriage during early pregnancy against about 87,000 women who did not. The participants' age ranged between 15 and 45 years old.

According to the research team, five broad classes of antibiotics -- sulfonamides, quinolones, metronidazole, macrolides, and tetracyclines -- were associated with a 60 to 100 percent increased risk of suffering miscarriage. However, nitrofurantoin (which is used to treat urinary tract infections in pregnant women) and erythromycin (another widely-used antibiotic) were not linked to higher miscarriage risk. According to the study's lead researcher, current obstetrics guidelines discourage the use of quinolones and tetracyclines during early pregnancy, and the recent results were sufficient proof to recommend against using the drugs.

“Infections are prevalent during pregnancy. Although antibiotic use to treat infections has been linked to a decreased risk of prematurity and low birth weight in other studies, our investigation shows that certain types of antibiotics are increasing the risk of spontaneous abortion, with a 60 percent to two-fold increased risk. The increased risk was not seen for all antibiotics, which is reassuring for users, prescribers and policymakers," said study leader Dr Anick Bérard in


Another study links antibiotics to higher miscarriage risk

A Danish study published in 2013 found that using the antibiotic clarithromycin during early pregnancy may raise the risk of suffering a miscarriage by up to 56 percent. As part of the study, a team of researchers at the Copenhagen University Hospital in Denmark examined data on 931,504 registered pregnancies and identified more than 400 women who were prescribed clarithromycin during the first trimester of pregnancy. The researchers found that 10 percent of these women experienced a miscarriage following antibiotic intake, compared with 8.3 percent of women who did not take the drug.

"Based on the current knowledge, clarithromycin is not recommended for use in pregnancy. However, since…clarithromycin is used in very common conditions and only half of pregnancies are planned, a substantial number of women risk exposure to clarithromycin in early pregnancy," the researchers said in a warning on PLOS ONE.

Other drugs tied to increased odds of miscarriage

Certain medications such as painkillers and antidepressants were also associated with an increased risk of miscarriage. A study published in the British Medical Journal revealed that taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs may significantly elevate this risk. To carry out the study, a team of researchers examined more than 1,000 pregnant women and found that five percent used painkillers during pregnancy.

The research team also found that NSAID use was associated with an 80 percent increased risk of miscarriage. The study also showed that the risk was higher if the initial painkiller use was around the time of conception or if it lasted for more than one week. Prenatal aspirin use was also tied to an increase in miscarriage risk, the experts said. However, paracetamol use was not linked to higher miscarriage risk regardless of timing and duration of use, the researchers added.

Another study revealed that antidepressants may elevate the risk of miscarriage. In the study, researchers at the University of Montreal examined more than 5,000 pregnant women who had a clinically-verified miscarriage and compared them against the same number of controls. The research team found that more than five percent of those who suffered a miscarriage used antidepressants during pregnancy. The study also showed that selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) such as paroxetine and venlafaxine were linked to higher miscarriage risk.

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