Cephalosporin antibiotics

Date: August 2022, Version 4

Quick read

It is very important to correctly treat an infection in pregnancy. A cephalosporin may be recommended for some types of infection.

What are they?

The cephalosporins are antibiotics. Cephalosporins used in the UK include cefaclor (Distaclor®), cefadroxil, cefalexin, cefixime (Suprax®), cefotaxime, cefpodoxime, cefradine, ceftazidime (Fortum®), ceftriaxone (Rocephin®) and cefuroxime (Zinnat®).

Cephalosporins are used to treat many different types of infection. Some are taken by mouth, while others are given into a vein, usually in hospital.


What are the benefits of using a cephalosporin in pregnancy?

Cephalosporin treatment can stop the unpleasant symptoms and complications caused by an infection, including some pregnancy problems.


What are the risks of using a cephalosporin in pregnancy?

Most studies of pregnant women taking a cephalosporin have not shown that it harms the baby. While cephalosporin use in early pregnancy has occasionally been linked to a slightly higher chance of the baby having a heart defect, the majority of studies do not agree with this finding.

If a cephalosporin is prescribed in pregnancy, a doctor will be happy to talk through the possible risks and weigh these up against the benefits of effective treatment of an infection.


Are there any alternatives to taking a cephalosporin in pregnancy?

Possibly, although alternative antibiotics may not work as well for some types of infection. A doctor will be able to discuss why a particular antibiotic is advised as the best treatment.

No treatment

What if I prefer not to take medicines in pregnancy?

It is important that an infection in pregnancy is well-treated as it can lead to very unpleasant symptoms, as well as serious complications for both mother and baby.

A doctor will only prescribe medicines when necessary and will be happy to talk about any concerns.

Will I or my baby need extra monitoring?

As part of routine antenatal care, most women will be offered a very detailed scan at around 20 weeks of pregnancy to check the baby’s development. No extra monitoring for major birth defects is required following use of a cephalosporin.

Are there any risks to my baby if the father has taken a cephalosporin?

There is no evidence that a cephalosporin used by the father can harm the baby through effects on the sperm. 

Who can I talk to if I have questions?

If you have any questions about the information in this leaflet please discuss them with your health care provider. They can access more detailed medical and scientific information from www.uktis.org.

How can I help to improve drug safety information for pregnant women in the future?

Our online reporting system (MyBump Portal) allows women who are currently pregnant to create a secure record of their pregnancy, collected through a series of questionnaires. You will be asked to enter information about your health, whether or not you take any medicines, your pregnancy outcome and your child's development. You can update your details at any time during pregnancy or afterwards. This information will help us better understand how medicines affect the health of pregnant women and their babies. Please visit the MyBump Portal to register.

General information
Sadly, miscarriage and birth defects can occur in any pregnancy.

Miscarriage occurs in about 1 in every 5 pregnancies, and 1 in every 40 babies are born with a birth defect. This is called the ‘background risk’ and happens whether medication is taken or not.

Most medicines cross the placenta and reach the baby. For many medications this is not a problem. However, some medicines can affect a baby’s growth and development.

If you take regular medication and are planning to conceive, you should discuss whether your medicine is safe to continue with your doctor/health care team before becoming pregnant. If you have an unplanned pregnancy while taking a medicine, you should tell your doctor as soon as possible.

If a new medicine is suggested for you during pregnancy, please make sure that the person prescribing it knows that you are pregnant. If you have any concerns about a medicine, you can check with your doctor, midwife or pharmacist.

Our Bumps information leaflets provide information about the effects of medicines in pregnancy so that you can decide, together with your healthcare provider, what is best for you and your baby.