Posted on 01/26/2022

Can Antibiotics Cause Birth Defects?

Can Antibiotics Cause Birth Defects?

There’s a growing link between the use of common antibiotics and an increased risk of miscarriage and severe birth defects during pregnancy.

Pregnant women are discouraged from taking antibiotics during pregnancy. Especially during the first trimester when a fetus’ heart and circulatory system are forming.

Sometimes taking antibiotics during pregnancy is unavoidable, particularly if the mother has an infection that could compromise her baby’s health. In these instances, antibiotics like penicillin or amoxicillin, both have been shown to be safe for pregnant women. 

However, a doctor might prescribe another class of antibiotic, known as a macrolide antibiotic. This may contribute to developmental birth defects in newborns.

Macrolide antibiotics has been found to directly cause birth effects in children. Your doctor should properly inform you of the significant risks. If they didn’t, you may have a medical malpractice claim against your physician.

Learn more about antibiotic birth defects, which antibiotics to avoid, and what to do if you suspect your child’s birth defect was caused by medical negligence.

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The Dangers of Taking Antibiotics When Pregnant

Researchers found that 55% of women who took a macrolide antibiotic (a penicillin alternative) during their first trimester had an increased risk of major birth defects in their babies.

Taking antibiotics while pregnant is usually a last resort option to prevent other infections that make childbirth difficult.

In these instances, penicillin is the preferred antibiotic prescribed by doctors. However, because many people are allergic to penicillin, a penicillin alternative, called a macrolide antibiotic, is often prescribed. This, unfortunately, increases a fetus’ chance of developing severe birth defects in the womb.

Macrolide antibiotics include the drugs:

  • Erythromycin (Erythrocin)
  • Clarithromycin (Biaxan)
  • Azithromycin (Z-Pak)
  • Roxithromycin

Not only are these antibiotic alternatives associated with birth defects, but are also responsible for many miscarriages. 

When macrolides are taken during the first trimester, there is an increased risk of cardiovascular malformations.

There’s current research underway examining the link between macrolides and cerebral palsy, ADHD, and autism. But this research is currently inconclusive.

Women should avoid using macrolides as much as possible during pregnancy. Penicillin, amoxicillin, ampicillin, or clindamycin, if they can tolerate it, should be used instead. These antibiotics are considered safer and have a lesser chance of creating birth defects in fetuses.

Other types of antibiotics, called “sulfa drugs,” including the antibiotics nitrofurantoin and sulfonamide, are also prescribed to women during pregnancy, resulting in a higher risk of birth defects.

Antibiotics Birth Defects Associated with Penicillin Alternatives

Macrolide antibiotics are derived from Saccharopolyspora erythraea, a type of soil-borne bacteria. They are often used to treat pneumonia, chlamydia, STDs, H. pylori, and rashes. They are also used as an alternative to people allergic to penicillin or cephalosporin (amoxicillin). 

Sulfonamides, or “Sulfas,” are another alternative group of antibiotics commonly used to treat UTIs, bronchitis, eye infections, burns, and other conditions. 

Both groups of antibiotics have been shown to increase the risk of developing birth defects compared to using penicillin and amoxicillin. Their side effects include: 

Sulfa drug birth defects: 

  • Anencephaly, a fatal condition resulting in a baby missing parts of their skull and brain
  • Increased risk of heart defects
  • Hypoplastic left heart syndrome (the left side of the heart is underdeveloped)
  • Choanal atresia (narrowing of the nostril, making it difficult to breathe)
  • Transverse limb deficiency (incomplete formation of hands and limbs)
  • Diaphragmatic hernia (a hole is formed in the diaphragm)

Nitrofurantoin drug birth defects:

  • Anophthalmia and microphthalmia (types of eye defects)
  • Congenital heart defects
  • Cleft lip and cleft palate

Macrolide drug birth defects:

  • Increased chance of miscarriage
  • Fetal cardiac arrhythmia (abnormal heartbeat)
  • Short-term fetal hypoxia
  • Increased risk of cardiovascular malformations
  • Increased risk of genital malformation, including hypospadias (the urethra opening is placed on the bottom of the penis, instead of the top)
  • Possible increased risk of developing cerebral palsy and epilepsy (evidence is currently inconclusive)

What to Do If You Suspect Your Child Was Born with Birth Defects Caused by Antibiotics

Were you treated with a macrolide or sulfa antibiotic during your first trimester that may have contributed to your child’s birth defects?

Unfortunately, birth defects are still common in America, with a birth defect affecting 1 in 33 babies born every year.

Birth defects and injuries caused by healthcare negligence that occurred before or during pregnancy can cause significant lifelong health problems for your child, including physical disability, developmental delays, and learning disabilities for your child.

Paying for a child’s birth defect correction surgery is extremely costly and burdensome for a family, resulting in lost wages, high surgical bills, expensive prescriptions, and even rehabilitation or therapy.

If your child’s birth defect was caused by negligence from a doctor who failed to inform you of the risks associated with taking macrolide biotics, you and your family deserve compensation.

Contact the Birth Injury Lawyers at Grover Lewis Johnson

Grover Lewis Johnson is a Michigan-based law firm specializing in medical malpractice cases, including birth defects, birth injuries, delayed diagnosis malpractice, hospital malpractice, surgical errors, and misdiagnosis malpractice.

Our medical malpractice team will work with you to ensure you get the compensation you and your child deserve.

At Grover Lewis Johnson, we work on a contingency fee basis, meaning you won’t pay us anything until your case is won or settled.

We carefully select all of the cases we work on to ensure a settlement can be reached early on through settlement. However, if your case needs to be taken to trial, we will use our 25 years of expertise to help you win.

If you are concerned that your baby’s birth defects were caused by a prescribed antibiotic during your pregnancy, contact us today to learn what your options are to fight back.