The facts about pregnancy infections

Protect your growing baby by making sure you know how to avoid dangerous pregnancy infections.

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  • The facts about pregnancy infections

    Although they are unlikely to affect you, it’s worth knowing about certain pregnancy infections to help keep your unborn baby safe.

    Here are the facts about protecting your growing baby throughout the nine months he is inside your womb.


    An infection caused by a parasite that can be found in soil or unwashed fruit and veg contaminated with cat faeces, as well as raw meat and unpasteurised goats’ milk. Risks to your unborn baby include eye and, very rarely, brain damage.

    Tommy’s midwife Sharon Simms says:

    This is very rare, affecting just 800 of the 1m babies born in the UK every year.

    How to stay safe:

    Use gloves for gardening and wash your hands afterwards. Ask someone else to change the cat’s litter tray. Wash fruit and veg, and wash your hands after handling raw meat. Make sure meat is well cooked and avoid cured meats such as salami and Parma ham.

    Should I worry?

    Most women are immune and few cats are actually infected with toxoplasmosis. You have to ingest it to get infected so touching cat poo is not as risky as you might think. Request a blood test if you are worried. Treatment includes antibiotics.


    This bacteria normally lives in our bodies – around a quarter of pregnant women in the UK are said to be GBS carriers. If passed on to your baby it can cause septicaemia, pneumonia and meningitis, each of which can be life-threatening.

    Tommy’s midwife Sharon Simms says:

    During labour it is possible for a baby to come into contact with GBS, but it is extremely rare for the baby become infected. It is estimated one in 1,000 babies in the UK will develop a GBS infection.

    How to stay safe:

    If you are worried you might be a carrier, you can have a test done at 36-37 weeks pregnant. This is not routinely available through the NHS but you can do it privately for about £30.

    Should I worry?

    GBS in newborns can be prevented by giving women who are carriers intravenous antibiotics either from the start of labour or when their waters break. This reduces the risk of infection in the baby by about 90% but if, despite this, the newborn has GBS, antibiotics will be administered immediately. Visit for info.


    Caused by an infection found in soil and in animals. It can be picked up from infected food. Causes flu-like symptoms and can be passed on to the baby, which in early pregnancy can cause miscarriage or in later pregnancy, premature labour.

    Tommy’s midwife Sharon Simms says:

    This is very rare: only one in 20,000 pregnant women contract this infection.

    How to stay safe:

    Avoid soft mould-ripened or blue-veined cheeses such as brie, Stilton and goats’cheese or unpasteurised dairy products. Avoid pâté, shellfish and sushi. Frozen fish is fine. Wash pre-packed salads plus fruit and veg. Always cook food thoroughly, especially meat and eggs.

    Should I worry?

    Go to your GP if you are worried or have flu-like symptoms including a sore throat and high temperature, and think you may have had one of the foods mentioned. It can easily be diagnosed with a test and you may be prescribed antibiotics.

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    A common viral infection. If you are newly infected with CMV while pregnant, there’s a 40% chance it will be passed to your baby. It can cause miscarriage in early pregnancy. In rare cases it affects babies’ hearing or sight.

    Tommy’s midwife Sharon Simms says:

    Some 40-85% of women get infected with CMV during their life. If you have previously been infected, your body will still carry the virus but will have antibodies too. This makes it very unlikely your baby will be affected.

    How to stay safe:

    Wash hands, especially after handling nappies. Avoid sharing cutlery with your children, as the infection can spread through children’s saliva. You can request a blood test from your GP to assess for antibodies to CMV, but this is not a routine part of the pregnancy-screening programme.

    Should I worry?

    If it’s a new infection, you should be aware of the possible risks because at present there is no immunisation or simple treatment for it. But most of us have had it without even knowing, in which case you are immune and can’t pass it on.


    A bacteria that causes food poisoning and can be present in poultry, eggs and unpasteurised milk.

    Tommy’s midwife Sharon Simms says:

    Symptoms including sickness, diarrhoea, headaches and fever will make you feel very unwell and can cause dehydration, but it will only affect your baby in very severe cases.

    How to stay safe:

    Wash your hands before and after cooking or handling food. Avoid runny yolks and food containing raw or part-cooked eggs. Make sure all meat is cooked through, especially mince.

    Should I worry?

    The risk is tiny – practise good hygiene and you should be fine.

Last updated on 30 April 2008