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Why You Might Need Antibiotics in Labor

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Updated June 25, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

expectant mother in labour in maternity ward
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Antibiotics are known to fight off infection. Sometimes you need these powerful medications in your labor and delivery experience. Here are some of the reasons that you may need antibiotics during your delivery:

  • Group B Strep (GBS)
    You will most likely be tested for Group B Strep at the end of your pregnancy. If you are positive for GBS during that test you will most like receive antibiotics in labor via your IV or saline lock.
  • Prophylactic - Just in Case
    In some birth situation you may be given antibiotics just in case, an example might be for a cesarean section or c-section.
  • Preterm Labor
    If you are in preterm labor, it may be caused by an infection. Using antibiotics may stop your labor or at least help with the infection.
  • Your Water Has Been Broken Over a Certain Period of Time
    Typically antibiotics are given after 18 hours of your membranes being ruptured to try to prevent a uterine infection or chorioamnionitis (an infection of the amniotic sac), if your Group B Strep status is unknown. This may be sooner or later depending on your hospital or practitioner's protocol.
  • Running a Fever
    If you are running a fever in labor, they may give you antibiotics, even before they know why you are running a fever to try to prevent transmission of whatever you have to the baby.

A Word About Mitral Valve Prolapse (MVP)
It used to be that if you had a mitral valve prolapse (MVP) you would be asked to do prophylactic antibiotics to prevent heart problems. It was also used in cases of rheumatic heart disease. This is no longer considered the protocol.

Source:

Obstetrics: Normal and Problem Pregnancies. Gabbe, S, Niebyl, J, Simpson, JL. Fifth Edition.

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