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Antibiotics may harm unborn babies

world Updated: Sep 18, 2008 14:32 IST

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Antibiotics administered indiscriminately to pregnant women to delay premature birth may cause long-term harm to babies, a research has suggested.

The study, published in The Lancet, found that among women whose waters had not broken, giving antibiotics was associated with increased risk of cerebral palsy in the children and problems such as poor eyesight or hearing not only at birth but for decades beyond.

Britain has issued a warning about the indiscriminate prescribing of antibiotics to pregnant women to delay premature labour after research revealed that the practice may cause long-term harm to their babies, the Independent newspaper said today.

According to the British daily, Liam Donaldson, UK's chief medical officer, warned that the antibiotics should "not routinely be given" to women in premature labour where there was no sign of infection and whose waters had not broken, in line with "existing good clinical practice".

A clinical trial involving 12,000 women in the UK and around the world, published in 2001, found antibiotics delayed labour and improved outcomes for mother and babies at risk of giving birth prematurely.

According to the UK medical journal, a follow-up study seven years later of more than 8,000 of the women in the UK showed that among women whose waters had not broken, giving antibiotics was associated with up to a threefold rise in cerebral palsy, from 1.6 per cent in those given placebo to 4.4 per cent in those on two antibiotics, and a small increase in "mild" functional impairment such as poor co-ordination and poor eyesight.

However, among women whose waters had broken, giving antibiotics caused no long-term benefit or harm to their children, despite the improved outcome at birth revealed in the first study, the study showed.