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C-Section Antibiotics Show No Link to Asthma in Childhood

FRIDAY, May 20, 2022 -- Giving antibiotics to a woman just before a cesarean delivery does not increase her baby's risk of asthma or eczema, a new British study says.

C-section is common, but can put new mothers at increased of infection, so they're given preventative antibiotics.

"Maternal infections, such as wound infection, can be a risk in the period immediately after birth. Preventative antibiotics are of most benefit to the mother if given before the cesarean section is carried out," said lead author Dana Sumilo, a senior research fellow from the University of Warwick.

"There is no known harm from these antibiotics to the babies born by cesarean birth, and our findings also suggest no effect on the risk of health conditions, such as asthma and eczema in early childhood," Sumilo said in a University of Birmingham news release. Researchers from both universities worked on the study.

If the antibiotic is given before the umbilical cord is clamped, the medication will cross the placenta and can affect microbes in the baby’s gut, including bacteria believed to benefit the health and the development of the child's immune system.

Previous studies have found a link between the mix of bacteria and other organisms in the baby’s gut (microbiome) and allergy-related conditions such as eczema and asthma.

To learn more, the researchers analyzed data on several million children born in the United Kingdom between 2006 and 2018. They compared rates of allergy-related conditions in the first five years in children born by C-section before and after changes in U.K. guidance on the use of antibiotics in C-sections.

The guidance was updated in 2011. It states that preventative antibiotics should be offered to mothers before undergoing a C-section to minimize their risk of infection. To provide the greatest protection to mothers, antibiotics should be given shortly before the C-section, rather than after the baby’s cord is clamped, according to the guidance.

The study was funded by Britain's National Institute for Health and Care Research. The results were published May 17 in the BMJ.

"These promising new findings provide more evidence that preventative antibiotics substantially improve health outcomes for mothers and their babies before cesarean section," said Andrew Shennan, clinical director of the NIHR Clinical Research Network South London.

"This arms clinicians with key evidence enabling them to ensure antibiotics are used wisely and at the optimum point for the most effective treatments," Shennan said in the release.


  • University of Birmingham, news release, May 18, 2022

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