Antibiotic Treatments for Urinary Tract Infections Are Commonly Prescribed To Pregnant Women

Woman holding a glass of water and pills

Some antibiotic treatments for urinary tract infections (UTIs), such as nitrofurantoin and trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole, have been linked to birth defects. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends avoiding these antibiotic treatments in early pregnancy if possible. A study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that about 4 in 10 women with UTIs during early pregnancy filled a prescription for nitrofurantoin or trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole. Healthcare providers of various specialties should be familiar with ACOG’s recommendations about prescribing specific antibiotics to pregnant women and consider the possibility of early pregnancy when treating women of reproductive age. To help determine treatment options, women should inform all of their healthcare providers if they are pregnant or are planning to become pregnant.

Read the full scientific article.

Main Findings

  • In this study, about 1 in 10 pregnant women had a diagnosis of a UTI just before or during pregnancy.
  • Given the recommendations to avoid these antibiotics in early pregnancy if possible, it is important that healthcare providers be familiar with ACOG recommendations and that they consider the possibility of early pregnancy when treating women of reproductive age.
  • Women who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant should talk to their healthcare provider before stopping any current medicine or starting new medicines.

About This Study

  • CDC researchers used the Truven Health MarketScan® Commercial Database. These data are health insurance claims (records from hospital, doctor, and pharmacy visits) from a large sample of individuals with mainly employer-sponsored private insurance. 
  • In this study, researchers identified over 34,000 pregnant women aged 15–44 years in 2014 who had a health insurance claim for a UTI. 
  • Researchers looked for antibiotic prescriptions filled at outpatient pharmacies by women with UTIs.

Our Work

Treating For Two. Safer Medication Use in Pregnancy.

CDC’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities (NCBDDD) is working to improve the health of women and babies through its Treating for Two: Safer Medication Use in Pregnancy initiative. Through Treating for Two, CDC is working with its partners, other federal agencies, and the public to understand trends in medicine use among pregnant women and women of reproductive age, and to provide women and healthcare providers with information about the safety or risk of using specific medicines during pregnancy. This information will allow women and their doctors to make informed decisions about treating health conditions during pregnancy.

More Information

Key Findings Reference

Ailes EC, Summers AD, Tran EL, Gilboa SM, Arnold KE, Meaney-Delman D, & Reefhuis, J. Antibiotic Dispensations to Privately-Insured Pregnant Women with Urinary Tract Infections, United States 2014. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2018;67:18–22.

Page last reviewed: July 16, 2020