Is It Safe to Take Doxycycline in Pregnancy?

A. Gamm
A. Gamm
Doctors rarely prescribe doxycycline during pregnancy, because there are a number of safer alternatives available.
Doctors rarely prescribe doxycycline during pregnancy, because there are a number of safer alternatives available.

Doxycycline is a common tetracycline antibiotic that is mostly used to fight bacterial infections. The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has categorized the antibiotic in Category D, which means that using Doxycycline during pregnancy is generally not recommended unless the benefits of using the drug greatly outweighs the risks to the unborn baby. Events in which this may arise include times when no other antibiotic that is as efficient is available, or when it is needed to treat a very serious infection like anthrax. Discussing options and the potential benefits and risks of using Doxycycline in pregnancy with a health care professional is highly recommended.

A pregnant woman should always consult her OB-GYN on questions about doxycycline or any other antibiotic.
A pregnant woman should always consult her OB-GYN on questions about doxycycline or any other antibiotic.

Most doctors will not prescribe Doxycycline in pregnancy and highly recommend women who become pregnant to discontinue the antibiotic immediately and switch to something else. This is because use of this medication may result in permanent yellow, brown or grey tooth discoloration in the unborn baby. Inadequate enamel may also occur in the child’s teeth.

The side effects associated with doxycycline may include blurred vision or an allergic reaction.
The side effects associated with doxycycline may include blurred vision or an allergic reaction.

There is little research concerning women who took Doxycycline long term. Some studies, however, have suggested that prolonged use of the antibiotic may result in abnormal bone formation in the fetus. Many doctors also believe that using Doxycycline in pregnancy could potentially affect the baby in more serious ways, though they generally agree that more research must be done.

Prolonged use of doxycycline could cause abnormal bone formation in a fetus.
Prolonged use of doxycycline could cause abnormal bone formation in a fetus.

Part of how Doxycycline works is by binding to minerals within the body and then settling in the bone permanently. Many medical professionals suspect this may be the cause of the tooth and bone abnormalities that may occur in unborn children. As of 2011, most of the studies centered on Doxycycline use in pregnancy focus on short term use of the drug or use on non-human subjects. Many doctors recommend that more research be performed to gain further insight into the potential damage that may be done to unborn children when women take Doxycycline during pregnancy.

Doxycycline side effects may include stomach cramps.
Doxycycline side effects may include stomach cramps.

The general side effects of Doxycycline are also potentially harmful for the pregnancy. Doxycycline side effects that may pose a health risk for the mother or child include difficulty swallowing, watery diarrhea, stomach cramps, and blurred vision. An allergic reaction may also occur and be potentially risky for the pregnancy. Signs of an allergic reaction include a skin rash, wheezing, difficulty breathing, hives and throat swelling.

Doxycycline can be used to treat urinary tract infections.
Doxycycline can be used to treat urinary tract infections.

The general consensus is that using Doxycycline in pregnancy is acceptable if the benefits of doing so greatly outweigh the risks to the fetus. Doxycycline is often used to treat bacterial infections, such as sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and urinary tract infections (UTIs). Other uses of Doxycycline include the treatment of acne and facial abrasions caused by rosacea.

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Discussion Comments

anon354917

I am 14 weeks pregnant and have been using doxycycline for two days. What are the risks?

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    • Doctors rarely prescribe doxycycline during pregnancy, because there are a number of safer alternatives available.
      Doctors rarely prescribe doxycycline during pregnancy, because there are a number of safer alternatives available.
    • A pregnant woman should always consult her OB-GYN on questions about doxycycline or any other antibiotic.
      A pregnant woman should always consult her OB-GYN on questions about doxycycline or any other antibiotic.
    • The side effects associated with doxycycline may include blurred vision or an allergic reaction.
      The side effects associated with doxycycline may include blurred vision or an allergic reaction.
    • Prolonged use of doxycycline could cause abnormal bone formation in a fetus.
      Prolonged use of doxycycline could cause abnormal bone formation in a fetus.
    • Doxycycline side effects may include stomach cramps.
      Doxycycline side effects may include stomach cramps.
    • Doxycycline can be used to treat urinary tract infections.
      Doxycycline can be used to treat urinary tract infections.
    • Doxycycline side effects may include difficulty swallowing.
      Doxycycline side effects may include difficulty swallowing.
    • Doxycycline can be used to treat acne.
      Doxycycline can be used to treat acne.
    • Patients taking doxycycline may experience severe headaches as a side effect.
      Patients taking doxycycline may experience severe headaches as a side effect.