Infections During Pregnancy

During pregnancy, your baby is protected from many illnesses, like the common cold or a passing stomach bug. But some infections can be harmful to your pregnancy, your baby, or both. This chart provides an overview of infections that can be harmful during pregnancy. Learn the symptoms and what you can do to keep healthy. Easy steps, such as hand washing, practicing safe sex, and avoiding certain foods, can help protect you from some infections.

InfectionsSymptomsPrevention & Treatment
Bacterial vaginosis (BV)
A vaginal infection that is caused by an overgrowth of bacteria normally found in the vagina.

BV has been linked to preterm birth and low birth weight babies

• Grey or whitish discharge that has a foul, fishy odor
• Burning when passing urine or itching
• Some women have no symptoms
How to prevent BV is unclear. BV is not passed through sexual contact, although it is linked with having a new or more than one sex partner.

Women with symptoms should be tested for BV. Antibiotics are used to treat BV.

Cytomegalovirus (SEYE-toh- MEG-uh-loh VEYE-ruhss) (CMV)
A common virus that can cause disease in infants whose mothers are infected with CMV during pregnancy. CMV infection in infants can lead to hearing loss, vision loss, and other disabilities.
• Mild illness that may include fever, sore throat, fatigue, and swollen glands
• Some women have no symptoms
Good hygiene is the best way to keep from getting CMV.

No treatment is currently available. But studies are looking at antiviral drugs for use in infants. Work to create a CMV vaccine also is underway.

Group B strep (GBS)
Group B strep is a type of bacteria often found in the vagina and rectum of healthy women.

One in four women has it. GBS usually is not harmful to you, but can be deadly to your baby if passed during childbirth.

• No symptoms
You can keep from passing GBS to your baby by getting tested at 35 to 37 weeks. This simply involves swabbing the vagina and rectum and does not hurt.
If you have GBS, an antibiotic given to you during labor will protect your baby from infection. Make sure to tell the labor and delivery staff that you are a group B strep carrier when you check into the hospital.
Hepatitis B virus (HBV)
A viral infection that can be passed to baby during birth. Newborns that get infected have a 90 percent chance of developing lifelong infection. This can lead to liver damage and liver cancer. A vaccine can keep newborns from getting HBV. But 1 in 5 newborns of mothers who are HBV positive don’t get the vaccine at the hospital before leaving.
• There may be no symptoms. Or symptoms can include:
• Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea
• Dark urine and pale bowel movements
• Whites of eyes or skin looks yellow
Lab tests can find out if the mother is a carrier of hepatitis B.
You can protect your baby for life from HBV with the hepatitis B vaccine, which is a series of three shots:
• First dose of hepatitis B vaccine plus HBIG shot given to baby at birth
• Second dose of hepatitis B vaccine given to baby at 1-2 months old
• Third dose of hepatitis B vaccine given to baby at 6 months old (but not before 24 weeks old)
Influenza (flu)
Flu is a common viral infection that is more likely to cause severe illness in pregnant women than in women who are not pregnant. Pregnant woman with flu also have a greater chance for serious problems for their unborn baby, including premature labor and delivery.
• Fever (sometimes) or feeling feverish/chills
• Cough
• Sore throat
• Runny or stuffy nose
• Muscle or body aches
• Headaches
• Feeling tired
• Vomiting and diarrhea (sometimes)

Getting a flu shot is the first and most important step in protecting against flu. The flu shot given during pregnancy is safe and has been shown to protect both the mother and her baby (up to 6 months old) from flu. (The nasal spray vaccine should not be given to women who are pregnant.)

If you get sick with flu-like symptoms call your doctor right away. If needed, the doctor will prescribe an antiviral medicine that treats the flu.

Listeriosis (lih-steer-ee-OH- suhss)
An infection with the harmful bacteria called listeria. It is found in some refrigerated and ready- to-eat foods. Infection can cause early delivery or miscarriage.
• Fever, muscle aches, chills
• Sometimes diarrhea or nausea
• If progresses, severe headache and stiff neck
Avoid foods that can harbor listeria. Antibiotics are used to treat listeriosis.
Parvovirus B19 (fifth disease) Most pregnant women who are infected with this virus do not have serious problems. But there is a small chance the virus can infect the fetus. This raises the risk of miscarriage during the first 20 weeks of pregnancy. Fifth disease can cause severe anemia in women who have red blood cell disorders like sickle cell disease or immune system problems.• Low-grade fever
• Tiredness
• Rash on face, trunk, and limbs
• Painful and swollen joints

No specific treatment, except for blood transfusions that might be needed for people who have problems with their immune systems or with red blood cell disorders.

There is no vaccine to help prevent infection with this virus.

Sexually transmitted infection (STI)
An infection that is passed through sexual contact. Many STIs can be passed to the baby in the womb or during birth. Some effects include stillbirth, low birth weight, and life-threatening infections. STIs also can cause a woman’s water to break too early or preterm labor.
• Symptoms depend on the STI. Often, a woman has no symptoms, which is why screening for STIs during pregnancy is so important.
• For more information, see our Sexually transmitted infections fact sheet
STIs can be prevented by practicing safe sex. A woman can keep from passing an STI to her baby by being screened early in pregnancy.

Treatments vary depending on the STI. Many STIs are treated easily with antibiotics.

Toxoplasmosis (TOK-soh- plaz-MOH-suhss)
This infection is caused by a parasite, which is found in cat feces, soil, and raw or undercooked meat. If passed to an unborn baby, the infection can cause hearing loss, blindness, or intellectual disabilities.
• Mild flu-like symptoms, or possibly no symptoms.You can lower your risk by:
• Washing hands with soap after touching soil or raw meat
• Washing produce before eating
• Cooking meat completely
• Washing cooking utensils with hot, soapy water
• Not cleaning cats’ litter boxes Medicines are used to treat a pregnant woman and her unborn baby. Sometimes, the baby is treated with medicine after birth
Urinary tract infection (UTI) Bacterial infection in urinary tract. If untreated, it can spread to the kidneys, which can cause preterm labor.• Pain or burning when urinating
• Frequent urination
• Pelvis, back, stomach, or side pain
• Shaking, chills, fever, sweats

UTIs are treated with antibiotics
Yeast infection
An infection caused by an overgrowth of bacteria normally found in the vagina. Yeast infections are more common during pregnancy than in other times of a woman’s life. They do not threaten the health of your baby. They can be uncomfortable and difficult to treat.
• Extreme itchiness in and around the vagina
• Burning, redness, and swelling of the vagina and the vulva
• Pain when passing urine or during sex
• A thick, white vaginal discharge that looks like cottage cheese and does not have a bad smell
Vaginal creams and suppositories are used to treat yeast infection during pregnancy