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Antibiotics at Time of Cesarean Delivery, Before Labor Starts, Can Reduce Infection Risks

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Women who deliver by cesarean are at significant risk of infection-related complications after they deliver, compared with women who deliver vaginally. For women who have begun labor but then need a cesarean, giving antibiotics at the time of the cesarean is known to reduce risk of infection, particularly infections of the lining of the uterus and infection of the surgical wound. Whether preventive antibiotics would similarly lower infection risk in elective cesareans, before labor beings, has not been well studied, however. 

Scientists supported by the Pregnancy and Perinatology Branch analyzed the clinical data on such deliveries, collected at 15 maternal-fetal medicine research sites, to learn more. They found that administering antibiotics at the time of “nonlaboring” cesarean delivery significantly reduced uterine and wound infections.

The researchers commented that clinicians caring for this population of women should balance the benefits of preventive antibiotic treatment against the potential risks of antibiotic allergy, selection of resistant organisms (i.e., survival of drug-resistant bacteria), and the relatively easy treatment of such infections after the infant is born (PMID: 9888031).

Last Reviewed: 05/29/2014
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