Date: April 2023, Version 4

Quick read

Chloramphenicol eye and ear drops can be used in pregnancy.

Chloramphenicol can be given by mouth or into a vein to treat serious infections during pregnancy.

What is it?

Chloramphenicol is an antibiotic most commonly used in the form of eye and ear drops. Chloramphenicol eye drops can be bought over-the-counter from a pharmacy.

Chloramphenicol is also occasionally given in hospital as tablets or through a drip to treat some types of life-threatening infection.


What are the benefits of using chloramphenicol in pregnancy?

Chloramphenicol eye and ear drops can reduce unpleasant symptoms and prevent serious complications from an infection.

Chloramphenicol given in hospital can prevent an infection from becoming life-threatening to both the woman and her baby.


Are there any risks of using chloramphenicol in pregnancy?

Use of chloramphenicol eye or ear drops in pregnancy will not harm the baby as only very small amounts are transferred into the woman’s bloodstream.

There is not much information on use of chloramphenicol tablets or through a drip during pregnancy. Chloramphenicol taken in this way can cause blood problems, and if used around the time of delivery, may also affect the baby. It is only used in situations where the benefit of treating a severe infection is likely to outweigh any possible risk.


Are there any alternatives to using chloramphenicol in pregnancy?

Possibly, although alternative antibiotics may not work as well as chloramphenicol for some types of infection. Chloramphenicol eye drops are generally the first-choice treatment for an eye infection in pregnancy. A doctor or midwife 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 during 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 in the UK, women are invited for a very detailed scan at around 20 weeks of pregnancy to check the baby’s development. No further monitoring for birth defects is required for women taking chloramphenicol.

If a woman has received chloramphenicol tablets or through a vein around the time of delivery, the baby may be monitored after birth to ensure that there are no ill effects.

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

There is no evidence that chloramphenicol 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 regarding the information in this leaflet please discuss them with your health care provider. They can access more detailed medical and scientific information from

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.