Can I Take Amoxicillin While Pregnant?

Pregnant woman taking antibiotics

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Pregnancy comes with lots of unwanted side effects, such as morning sickness, swollen feet, and more. No one wants to add more to it, especially not an illness like bronchitis, pneumonia, or any other not-so-fun bacterial infection. In the past, your healthcare provider might have put you on a dose of amoxicillin, but now that you're pregnant, you might be questioning whether or not it's a safe medication to take.

If you are hit with a bacterial infection while pregnant, fear not: You can most likely take the antibiotic amoxicillin to get you feeling better soon.

"Amoxicillin has been used for many decades and is the most commonly prescribed antibiotic in pregnancy," says David Eugene Beatty, MRCGP, MBBS, DRCOG, a general practitioner based in Sussex England with experience in obstetrics and gynecology and a doctor of medicine at Strong Home Gym. Here, let's take a look at what amoxicillin is and how it can help you recover, all while keeping you and your baby safe.

What Is Amoxicillin?

Amoxicillin is an antibiotic used to treat a variety of bacterial infections, including bronchitis and pneumonia. It can also be used as an antidote to anthrax exposure or, in combination with other medications, to treat ulcers.

You can take amoxicillin as a capsule, a chewable tablet, a hard tablet, or a liquid. It falls under the category of penicillin-like antibiotics. Like all antibiotics, amoxicillin works to kill bacteria, and it will not help with viral infections such as a cold or the flu.

Is It Safe to Take Amoxicillin During Pregnancy?

It is most likely safe to take amoxicillin while pregnant, as long as your healthcare provider believes that it is necessary. During the first trimester, however, it is best not to take amoxicillin because it could possibly increase the risk of cleft palate in your baby.

Amoxicillin is classified by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as Pregnancy Category B. "This means that multiple studies that look at amoxicillin use in pregnant animals have not shown fetal harm to occur after maternal use of amoxicillin, but there are no adequate or well-controlled studies of the use of amoxicillin in pregnant women," explains Kelly Johnson-Arbor, MD, FACEP, FUHM, FACMT, a medical toxicologist and co-medical director at the National Capital Poison Center.

Dr. Johnson-Arbor continues: "A few human studies found that amoxicillin might be associated with birth defects, specifically cleft palate, when used in the first trimester of pregnancy during the period of fetal organ development." For this reason, it's important that your prescribing healthcare provider be aware of your pregnancy and how far along you are.

Every pregnancy is different. Be sure to consult with a healthcare provider about your circumstances if you have any questions about taking amoxicillin while pregnant.

What If I Take Amoxicillin Before Realizing I'm Pregnant?

If you took amoxicillin before you knew you were expecting, contact your healthcare provider for instructions on what to do. They may have you stop the antibiotics, or they may have you finish the course.

If you have already finished your course and you are just finding out you are pregnant, try not to worry. According to Dr. Beatty, trial results from studies looking at the connection between amoxicillin and an increased risk of cleft palate have been inconsistent. "Even if the data is
absolutely correct, the chances are very high that your baby won't be affected," he notes.

Safety Precautions

If you take amoxicillin during pregnancy, there are a few safety precautions to bear in mind. "Since amoxicillin does transfer from the mother's bloodstream to the placenta, it is important to recognize the potential risks associated with the use of amoxicillin in pregnancy," says Dr. Johnson-Arbor. Let's dive into them.

Allergic Reaction

Amoxicillin may cause an allergic reaction in some people, although severe reactions are rare. If you have had a rash or an allergic reaction to amoxicillin or another type of penicillin in the past, it is best not to take the medication. If you notice a rash while taking amoxicillin, stop taking it until you can speak with a healthcare provider about what to do next.

Possible Increased Risk of Cleft Palate

Some research has found a link between taking amoxicillin during pregnancy and an increased risk of cleft palate in babies. "Historically, there has been a concern about this, but trial results have been inconsistent," says Dr. Beatty. He says the studies on this have limitations that might reduce the weight given to the results.

Since there might be an increased risk of cleft palate if you take amoxicillin during the first trimester of pregnancy, it is best to err on the side of caution and not take it during this period. After the first trimester, however, there is no need to worry. "The palate is fully formed during the twelfth week of the fetal period, so amoxicillin taken in the second or third trimesters of pregnancy definitely won't cause cleft lip or cleft palate," notes Dr. Beatty.

Take Amoxicillin Only When Absolutely Necessary

If you think you can make it through an infection without antibiotics, that might be your best course of action during pregnancy. "I wouldn't advise antibiotic prescription for the majority of upper respiratory infections unless they are severe," notes Dr. Beatty. "This is especially true in the first trimester when the baby is being structurally formed."

If your symptoms make it difficult for you to function, do not hesitate to reach out to your healthcare provider. Antibiotics might be the best course of action, as untreated infections can present their own risks. Even if your symptoms are on the milder side, it is always a good idea to seek professional medical care.

A Word From Verywell

Amoxicillin is an antibiotic that is generally considered safe to take during pregnancy. It may be best to avoid amoxicillin in the early weeks of pregnancy because there is some data that it might possibly increase your baby's risk of developing a cleft palate. This risk is not an issue in the latter two trimesters of pregnancy because the palate is already fully formed by then.

It is best to only take amoxicillin or other antibiotics when absolutely necessary and it is important to stick to the prescribed dose. If you have any questions or concerns about taking amoxicillin while pregnant, reach out to a healthcare provider.

5 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Elisa Cinelli
Elisa is a well-known parenting writer who is passionate about providing research-based content to help parents make the best decisions for their families. She has written for well-known sites including POPSUGAR and Scary Mommy, among others.