Penicillin levels following the administration of benzathine penicillin G in pregnancy

Lawrence Nathan, Roger E. Bawdon, J. Elaine Sidawi, R. William Stettler, Donald M. McIntire, George D. Wendel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Scopus citations


Objective: To investigate the distribution of penicillin in the maternal-placental-fetal unit at term gestation. Methods: Twenty-five healthy gravidas at 38–39 weeks’ gestation scheduled for elective repeat cesarean delivery under spinal anesthesia received benzathine penicillin G, 2.4 million units intramuscularly (IM) preoperatively. Ten women delivered 1 day after injection, five delivered 2–3 days after, and ten delivered 7 days after. We collected maternal serum and cerebrospinal fluid, amniotic fluid (AF), and cord serum at delivery. Penicillin levels were measured using a validated agar disc diffusion method (sensitivity 0.006 μg/mL) with Micrococcus lutea as the test organism. Results: There was no significant difference in mean penicillin levels at day 1, day 2–3, or day 7 for maternal serum, maternal cerebrospinal fluid, cord serum, or AF. The mean (± standard error) penicillin concentration (range 0.005–0.59 μg/mL) in maternal serum declined from 0.14 ± 0.04 μg/mL 1 day after injection to 0.08 ± 0.06 μg/mL 7 days after injection. The proportion of patients with a penicillin concentration at or above 0.018 μg/mL in the maternal serum declined significantly from day 1 to day 7 (P = .03). Overall, nine of 25 women (36%) had serum penicillin levels that were less than 0.018 μg/mL. Conclusion: A wide range of penicillin levels were observed in gravidas at term in the maternal serum, cerebrospinal fluid, umbilical cord serum, and AF within 1 week after 2.4 million units of benzathine penicillin G IM. We speculate that altered pharmacokinetics may affect the efficacy of this drug for prevention of congenital syphilis in the near-term gestation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)338-342
Number of pages5
JournalObstetrics and gynecology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1993

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Obstetrics and Gynecology


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