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Antibiotics to Treat and Prevent Infection During Preterm Labor

Topic Overview

During preterm labor, antibiotics may be used to treat or prevent an infection.

Treatment with antibiotics

If an infection is causing your preterm labor, you will be treated with antibiotics. The type of antibiotic used to treat the infection depends on which bacteria are causing the infection. Antibiotics commonly used during pregnancy include erythromycin, clindamycin, ampicillin, gentamicin, and metronidazole.

Antibiotics don't always clear up uterine infection or prevent preterm labor. If a mother's uterus has become infected and her fetus is mature enough, her doctor or nurse-midwife might not attempt to delay the birth.

Prevention with antibiotics after preterm premature rupture of membranes (pPROM)

Preterm premature rupture of membranes (pPROM) is when your water breaks (rupture of the amniotic sac) before 37 completed weeks of pregnancy. When given to women with pPROM, antibiotics may:1

  • Increase time from pPROM to delivery.
  • Lower the risk of infection in the vagina and uterus.
  • Lower the risk of fetal infection.

Prevention with antibiotics with intact membranes

Antibiotics are not a recommended treatment for women in preterm labor whose amniotic sac has not ruptured (intact membranes). But some women do receive antibiotics for group B strep prevention or treatment.

Related Information

References

Citations

  1. Haas DM (2011). Preterm birth, search date June 2010. BMJ Clinical Evidence. Available online: http://www.clinicalevidence.com.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Sarah Marshall, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer William Gilbert, MD - Maternal and Fetal Medicine
Last Revised January 8, 2013

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