HEALTH Maternal infection rate ‘could be halved’ with antibiotics

By Henry Bodkin, Health Correspondent

THOUSANDS of new mothers could avoid contracting a post-delivery infection if they took antibiotics as a matter of course after giving birth, a study has found.

All women who give birth assisted by forceps or a suction cup should be prescribed the drugs, according to researchers at Oxford University.

They found the policy almost halved the maternal infection rate and estimated that 7,000 cases could be prevented in the UK each year.

The study, involving 3,420 people at 27 maternity units, found that only about one in 20 women suffered an infection if given antibiotics, compared with about one in 10 of those given a placebo drug.


The number of post delivery infections that could be avoided if mothers were given antibiotics after giving birth

Volunteers were given a single dose of intravenous amoxicillin, a type of penicillin, and clavulanic acid no more than six hours after giving birth.

Six weeks later among those who contracted an infection, there was a 56 per cent reduction in cases of sepsis, with 11 instances in the antibiotic group compared with 25 in the placebo group.

Adopting a policy of giving all women in this group antibiotics could actually reduce overall antibiotic use by 17 per cent, researchers said.

“These findings highlight the urgent need to change current World Health Organisation antibiotic guidelines and other guidance from organisations in the UK, North America, and Australasia, that do not recommend routine antibiotic prophylaxis for assisted childbirth,” lead researcher Prof Marian Knight told The Lancet.

“Pregnancy-associated infection is a major cause of death and serious illness.”

Grahame White