Antibiotic prophylaxis for prevention of postpartum perineal wound complications: a randomized controlled trial

Obstet Gynecol. 2008 Jun;111(6):1268-73. doi: 10.1097/AOG.0b013e31816de8ad.


Objective: To estimate whether prophylactic antibiotics at the time of repair of third- or fourth-degree perineal tears after vaginal delivery prevent wound infection and breakdown.

Methods: This was a prospective, randomized, placebo-controlled study. Patients who sustained third- or fourth-degree perineal tears after a vaginal delivery were recruited for the study. Each patient was given a single intravenous dose of a second-generation cephalosporin (cefotetan or cefoxitin) or placebo before repair of third- or fourth-degree perineal tears. Obstetricians and patients were blinded to study drug. The perineum was inspected for evidence of infection or breakdown at discharge from the hospital and at 2 weeks postpartum. Primary end points were gross disruption or purulent discharge at site of perineal repair by 2 weeks postpartum.

Results: One hundred forty-seven patients were recruited for the study. Of these, 83 patients received placebo and 64 patients received antibiotics. Forty patients (27.2%) did not return for their 2-week appointment. Of the patients seen at 2 weeks postpartum, 4 of 49 (8.2%) patients who received antibiotics and 14 of 58 (24.1%) patients who received placebo developed a perineal wound complication (P=.037). There were no differences between groups in parity, incidence of diabetes, operative delivery, or third-degree compared with fourth-degree lacerations.

Conclusion: By 2 weeks postpartum, patients who received prophylactic antibiotics at the time of third- or fourth-degree laceration repair had a lower rate of perineal wound complications than patients who received placebo.

Clinical trial registration:,, NCT00186082.

Level of evidence: I.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antibiotic Prophylaxis*
  • Cephalosporins / therapeutic use*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Obstetric Labor Complications
  • Perineum / injuries*
  • Pregnancy
  • Prospective Studies
  • Puerperal Infection / prevention & control*
  • Wound Infection / prevention & control*


  • Cephalosporins

Associated data