You’re at greater risk of infection when you’re pregnant, but can take some simple steps to help stay healthy

The immune system becomes weaker in pregnancy. So pregnant women are more at risk of infections

Some infections can increase the risk of stillbirth (when an unborn baby dies after 24 or more weeks of pregnancy). And some can lead to health problems for you and your baby. Examples are toxoplasmosis and cytomegalovirus (CMV) 

You can take steps to reduce your risk of infection

  • Be strict about good hygiene – wash your hands before and after handling food, going to the toilet and after sneezing and blowing your nose
  • Have the seasonal flu jab (vaccination). Flu in pregnancy is fatal for a small number of pregnant women, and the flu jab can help protect you. It will also pass some protection onto your baby, which should last for the first few months of your baby’s life. Your midwife or GP will offer you this free of charge. It’s safe to have at any stage of pregnancy
  • Avoid unprotected sexual contact if your partner has genital herpes, and avoid oral sex from a partner with a cold sore on their mouth. Wash your hands if you touch the sores
  • Wherever possible, keep away from people with infectious illnesses, whether it’s diarrhoea and sickness or one of the childhood illnesses, such as chickenpox or parvovirus (slapped cheek)
  • Follow the advice from your midwife or GP about foods to avoid in pregnancy (or see further information at the end of this page)
  • The bacteria ‘group B streptococcus’ (GBS, or group B strep) is common in women but thought to be mostly harmless. In some pregnancies, it can be passed on to the baby around the time of delivery. In rare cases, it can lead to serious illness or stillbirth. NHS guidelines describe the pregnancies where this is a risk and recommend that the woman has antibiotics during labour (see more information below)
  • As far as possible, avoid contact with anyone with measles when you are pregnant. If you get measles while you're pregnant, it could harm your baby. If you think you’ve been in close contact with someone who has measles, or may have measles yourself, it’s important to contact your GP straight away for advice. If you've had two MMR vaccinations (usually in childhood) you will be protected against measles. However, measles vaccination is not recommended while you are pregnant. (See more information about measles below.)


At a glance – signs you may have an infection

If you have one or more of these, phone your midwife or GP for advice. This isn’t a full list of symptoms of infection. In general, if you feel unwell, call your GP or maternity unit

  • Sore throat
  • Generally feeling unwell/more tired than usual
  • High temperature
  • Sickness (vomiting or diarrhoea)
  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Soreness around the vagina
  • Tingling, burning or itching sensation in the area around the vagina and bottom (the feeling might continue down the leg) 
  • Painful red blisters that burst, leaving sores in the area around the vagina, bottom and thighs
  • Vaginal discharge that’s smelly or unusual for you
This film about reducing the chance of an infection was produced for Our Chance, a campaign by the charities Sands and Best Beginnings to raise awareness of health issues in pregnancy