Infection in pregnancy

We discuss some common infections that you may be more susceptible to in pregnancy, including urine and kidney infections, sexually transmitted infections, and colds and flu.

The immune system can be less effective in pregnancy, possibly to prevent women rejecting their babies. This may make women more susceptible to infection including urine and gum infections, infectious diseases, cold and flu and sexually transmitted infections. If in doubt about pregnancy symptoms or infections, always consult your midwife or GP.

Urine infections

Urine infections are more common in pregnancy because tissue relaxation may prevent your bladder from completely emptying, and the urine left behind can become infected. You may also be more susceptible to cystitis (an infection of the bladder that makes passing urine painful, often with a burning sensation). Sometimes infections can back-track to the kidneys, causing pain and nausea.

Gum infections

You may get a gum infection (gingivitis) when you are pregnant, as the gums tend to swell during pregnancy so that brushing your teeth causes bleeding more readily. Use a soft brush, and speak to your dentist if you are concerned.

Infectious diseases

Some infections can cause problems with the development of the baby, particularly in early pregnancy. These include German Measles (rubella) and chickenpox.

If you are worried about exposure to German Measles or chickenpox, discuss your immunity with your midwife. If you have any symptoms of chickenpox, seek medical help immediately, as you may need an antiviral drug. 

Colds and flu

Flu can be serious in pregnancy and pregnant women are advised to have the seasonal flu vaccine. If you have a cold or flu, get plenty of rest and fluids. Lower your temperature with cold flannels, and with paracetamol, as long as you do not exceed the stated dose over 24 hours.

Some cold and flu preparations contain other drugs, so check with the pharmacist that they are sutiable for use in pregnancy. 

Sexually transmitted infections

Sexually transmitted infections may include HIV, Hepatitis B and C and genital herpes. Sexually transmitted infections can affect the health of you and your baby but may have no symptoms. If there is a chance you might be infected you should see your doctor or midwife. Alternatively, you could visit the nearest genito-urinary medicine (GUM) clinic or sexual health clinic (where your confidentiality is guaranteed).

Further information

NCT's helpline offers practical and emotional support in all areas of pregnancy, birth and early parenthood: 0300 330 0700. We also offer antenatal courses which are a great way to find out more about birth, labour and life with a new baby.

More information on infections in pregnancy, including sexually transmitted infections can be found on NHS Choices. There is also an A-Z of common health problems which lists several common infections, and you can search for your nearest sexual health clinic.