Long term impact of prophylactic antibiotic use before incision versus after cord clamping on children born by caesarean section: longitudinal study of UK electronic health records

BMJ. 2022 May 17:377:e069704. doi: 10.1136/bmj-2021-069704.


Objective: To investigate the impact on child health up to age 5 years of a policy to use antibiotic prophylaxis for caesarean section before incision compared with after cord clamping.

Design: Observational controlled interrupted time series study.

Setting: UK primary and secondary care.

Participants: 515 945 children born in 2006-18 with linked maternal records and registered with general practices contributing to two UK primary care databases (The Health Improvement Network and Clinical Practice Research Datalink), and 7 147 884 children with linked maternal records in the Hospital Episode Statistics database covering England, of which 3 945 351 were linked to hospitals that reported the year of policy change to administer prophylactic antibiotics for caesarean section before incision rather than after cord clamping.

Intervention: Fetal exposure to antibiotics shortly before birth (using pre-incision antibiotic policy as proxy) compared with no exposure.

Main outcome measures: The primary outcomes were incidence rate ratios of asthma and eczema in children born by caesarean section when pre-incision prophylactic antibiotics were recommended compared with those born when antibiotics were administered post-cord clamping, adjusted for temporal changes in the incidence rates in children born vaginally.

Results: Prophylactic antibiotics administered before incision for caesarean section compared with after cord clamping were not associated with a significantly higher risk of asthma (incidence rate ratio 0.91, 95% confidence interval 0.78 to 1.05) or eczema (0.98, 0.94 to 1.03), including asthma and eczema resulting in hospital admission (1.05, 0.99 to 1.11 and 0.96, 0.71 to 1.29, respectively), up to age 5 years.

Conclusions: This study found no evidence of an association between pre-incision prophylactic antibiotic use and risk of asthma and eczema in early childhood in children born by caesarean section.

Publication types

  • Observational Study

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use
  • Antibiotic Prophylaxis* / adverse effects
  • Asthma / epidemiology
  • Cesarean Section* / methods
  • Child, Preschool
  • Constriction
  • Eczema / epidemiology
  • Electronic Health Records
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Pregnancy
  • Surgical Wound Infection / prevention & control
  • United Kingdom / epidemiology


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents