Antibiotics following childbirth could prevent serious infections

on 14 May 2019

Some life threatening infections following childbirth could be prevented if women take antibiotics 6 hours after giving birth, according to a trial study.

3,420 women across 27 maternity care units in the UK took part in the trial which saw a single dose of antibiotics halving the number of infections in women whose babies were delivered by forceps or ventouse suction cups.

The trial was carried out between March 2016 and June 2018, with women being randomly assigned to either an antibiotic (amoxicillin and clavulanic acid) or a saline placebo, administered intravenously within six hours after childbirth.

In the placebo group of women, 19% picked up an infection soon after childbirth, in comparison to 11% of women who received antibiotics.

Serious cases of sepsis reached 1.5% in the placebo group, with 0.6% in the antibiotics group, according to a report in The Lancet.

The trial also found antibiotics lowered the rate of infections during the broader recovery of women following childbirth.

Researchers estimate the cost to the NHS six weeks after birth was £102.50 per woman in the antibiotics group, in comparison to £155.10 per woman in the placebo group.

Speaking to The Guardian, Consultant Obstetrician and spokesperson for the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, Pat O’Brien, said: “This is a very interesting and well-conducted trial. Around 12% of women in the UK have an assisted birth and these results show that single dose antibiotic use could reduce infections by half – equivalent to around 7,000 infections every year.

“It is standard practice to provide single-dose antibiotic to all women who have a caesarean birth to reduce infection, and it follows that this should be considered for women following an assisted birth.”

The research ‘Prophylactic antibiotics in the prevention of infection after operative vaginal delivery (ANODE): a multicentre randomised controlled trial’ was published on The Lancet website here.