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Infections transmitted during Pregnancy

Updated on June 19, 2013

Infections that women should be aware of during pregnancy

The information on here is for general advice only, and if you are worried at all about any of these you need to speak to your own Doctor or Midwife. Practices may also differ in certain countries and any statistics quoted are from the UK.


Rubella is another name for German Measles.

If you have not had German Measles before then you are not Immune to rubella. If you catch this within the first 4 months of your pregnancy then this can seriously affect your baby's hearing and sight and can cause brain and heart defects. Children are offered immunisations against rubella when the are 13 months old and before they go to school.

Hepatitis B

This is viral infection that affects the liver and people with Hep B have no signs or symptoms that they have it but may infect others. If you have Hep B or it has been detected in pregnancy then you may pass on the infection to you baby.The blood test to detect Hep B is offered to all women in their pregnancy.

Hep B can be picked up by unprotected sex or needle sharing in drug use or you may have been born outside of the UK in countries where Hep B is more prevalent.

Babies who are at risk should be immunised at birth to prevent them from developing the infection and usually this is 90-95% effective.

Hepatitis C

This is another virus that affects the liver which can also be passed on to your baby at birth, There are no immunisations at present to prevent Hep C but babies can be tested to see if this infection has been passed on. The risk is much lower that Hep B infection or HIV so therefore it is not routinely tested in the UK.


If you have had chickenpox as a child then you are immune to this infection however there are a 5% of women who have never had this during childhood. Chickenpox can be particularly dangerous to both you and your baby in pregnancy. If you think you may have got in contact with someone who has this infection and you have not had chickenpox then you need to speak to your Doctor or Midwife immediately and get tested.

Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs)


STIs are on the increase and the most common one is Chlamydia with 70% of women and 50% of men having this disease and showing no symptoms. STIs can serious affect a woman and baby's health and can lead to miscarriage or infection at birth.

Chlamydia testing is offered to women under 25 and is a simple urine test.


Genital herpes are small blister like outbreaks on your genital area and are usually passed on by someone already infected or from a person having oral sex with someone who already has oral herpes (Cold sores) on their mouth. Herpes can also be passed onto your baby at birth.

Once you have the herpes virus then you could be prone to having flare ups later on.

You need to speak to your Doctor or Midwife if you think you have this infection so that you can be treated and minimise the risk of passing this to your baby.


Symptoms include:

  • A sore on your genitalia depending what stage of syphilis it occurred.
  • a non-itchy skin rash appearing anywhere on the body, but commonly on the palms of the hands or soles of the feet
  • tiredness
  • headaches
  • swollen lymph glands

Syphilis can also lead to stillbirth and miscarriage.This infection is routinely tested for in pregnancy in the UK.


You can get infected by HIV by:

  1. Having sex with someone who is infected with HIV and not wearing a condom
  2. IV Drug use and sharing needles with someone already infected.

All pregnant women in the UK are offered HIV screening as part of their antenatal care and counselling is available to women who have come up with a positive result.

Women who have HIV can be treated well with anti Viral drugs and those who show no symptoms but are in good health are not affected by pregnancy. HIV infection can be passed to the baby through breast milk however there are ways to minimise the risk of passing HIV onto your baby.

  • There is a 1 in 4 chance of your baby being infected if you and your baby don't have treatment.
  • Your labour will be managed to reduce the risk of passing on HIV to your baby. This means you could have an Elective Cesarean Delivery.
  • Your baby will be tested at birth and again at different intervals over a 2 year period.
  • You would be advised not to breastfeed as HIV can be passed on via Breast Milk


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