The overutilization of antibiotics during pregnancy and early life are associated with adverse health outcomes for mothers and infants. In this study, we explored pregnant women's opinions and concerns of antibiotics and how perceptions may affect their health-related decision-making. We conducted 18 in-depth, semi-structured interviews with pregnant women and used the Health Belief Model (HBM) as a framework to analyze the data. We found that mothers generally understood the benefits of antibiotics and were aware that antibiotics are clinically effective for treating bacterial infections. Importantly, perceived barriers related to antibiotic use included concerns regarding the impact of antibiotics on breastfeeding efficacy, microbial health, and societal factors such as antimicrobial resistance. The prescription of antibiotics by a healthcare provider was a cue to action for women, as they trusted providers to recommend medications that were safe for them and their infants. Overall, mothers shared that receiving education on the effects of antibiotics would improve their self-efficacy and decision-making surrounding the use of antibiotics for treating illness. Implications for tailored perinatal health education interventions to enhance antibiotic use, knowledge, and decision-making are discussed.
Keywords: antibiotics; health decision-making; obstetrics; pediatrics; pregnancy.