Use of cephalosporins during pregnancy and in the presence of congenital abnormalities: a population-based, case-control study

Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2001 May;184(6):1289-96. doi: 10.1067/mob.2001.113905.


Objective: Our purpose was to study the human teratogenic potential of cephalosporin treatment during pregnancy.

Study design: Pair analysis of cases with congenital abnormalities and matched controls without congenital abnormalities was performed. The population-based data set of the Hungarian Case-Control Surveillance of Congenital Abnormalities, 1980-1996, was used. The participants included 22,865 pregnant women who had fetuses or newborn infants with congenital abnormalities, 38,151 pregnant women who had infants without any defects (population control group), and 812 mothers who were delivered of babies affected with Down syndrome (patient controls).

Results: In the case group, 308 (1.35%) pregnant women were treated with cephalosporin. In the population and patient control groups, 440 (1.15%) and 16 (1.97%) pregnant women had similar treatments. The somewhat higher use of cephalosporins, mainly oral cephalexin, in the case and patient control groups was explained by recall bias. The comparison of the occurrence of medically documented cephalosporin treatments during the second to third months of gestation (ie, the critical period for major congenital abnormalities) in different congenital abnormality groups with the referent data of the total population control group and the patient control group did not indicate a detectable human teratogenic potential of the studied drug.

Conclusion: Treatment with the studied cephalosporins during pregnancy does not seem to present a detectable teratogenic risk to the fetus. However, further studies are needed to clarify the teratogenic and fetal toxic effects of different cephalosporins separately.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Abnormalities, Drug-Induced*
  • Bacterial Infections / drug therapy*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Cephalosporins / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications, Infectious / drug therapy*
  • Pregnancy Trimester, First
  • Teratogens*


  • Cephalosporins
  • Teratogens