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Lyme Disease and Pregnancy


Lyme Disease and Pregnancy

A pathogen delivered by an infected blacklegged tick causes Lyme disease (also called a deer tick). This tick prefers to reside in woody regions, such as woods, or in grassy bushes.

Lyme disease is most common in the northeast and upper Midwest of the United States. You can find out if you reside in a Lyme disease-affected area by contacting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Lyme disease ticks are small (about the size of an apple seed) and might be difficult to spot. Ticks that are young can bite in the spring and summer, and adult ticks are more active in the fall and winter. Ticks cannot fly, but they can attach themselves to you via a plant or an animal.

A tick carrying Lyme disease must be on your body for at least 2 days before infecting you. Ticks can bite you anywhere on your body. Check for ticks behind your armpits, behind your knees, in your hair, and around your groin after being outside.

Lyme disease cannot be contracted through touching, kissing, or having intercourse with someone who has the disease. You cannot pass it on to your infant through breast milk, either. Lyme disease might cause issues for the baby if contracted during pregnancy; however, it is not very common. Early diagnosis and treatment can help recover from Lyme disease and prevent complications during pregnancy.


What impact does Lyme illness have on your pregnancy?

The implications of Lyme disease for pregnancy are unknown at this time. Because such a risk analysis is difficult to perform, not much is known about the probable negative effects of Borrelia infections during pregnancy. Borrelia burgdorferi has been found to transmit through the placenta in various animal experiments.

As a result, it was hypothesized that B. burgdorferi could cause prenatal infection and teratogenicity, especially given the similarities between Lyme borreliosis and syphilis. Several clinical, serological, and epidemiological studies, however, have failed to find a link between B. burgdorferi infection and a negative pregnancy outcome. Furthermore, no cases of Borrelia transfer through breast milk have been recorded.

Antibiotic treatment should be the first line of treatment for pregnant women with Lyme disease, depending on the clinical manifestations and timing of the tick bite. Because no effective vaccine exists, Lyme borreliosis prevention relies on public and medical education, as well as adequate antibiotic medication during pregnancy.

Untreated Lyme disease during pregnancy can result in a placental infection. It is possible for the virus to spread from the mother to the fetus, although this is uncommon. Fortunately, with proper antibiotic therapy, there is no increased risk of complications during pregnancy.

Lyme disease, if left untreated during pregnancy, can increase the risk of the following:

Placental infection

A placental infection is a condition wherein the placenta becomes infected. The placenta develops in your uterus (womb) and provides nourishment and oxygen to your baby via the umbilical cord.


When a baby dies in the womb after 20 weeks of pregnancy, this is known as stillbirth. Lyme disease during pregnancy increases the risk of stillbirth.

Congenital heart defects

Heart defects that are present at birth are congenital heart defects. They can alter the shape or function of the heart, or both. Lyme disease during pregnancy increases the risk of the baby being born with congenital heart disease.

Defects in the urinary tract

The urinary tract is a collection of organs (including the kidneys and bladder) that aid in the removal of waste and excess fluids from the body. Pain, urinary tract infections, kidney damage, and kidney failure can all be caused by urinary tract defects.


Hyperbilirubinemia occurs when the baby's blood contains an excessive amount of bilirubin. Bilirubin is a yellow chemical produced by the breakdown of red blood cells. Jaundice can be caused by too much bilirubin in the baby. Because the liver isn't fully developed or operating, the baby's skin and white areas of his eyes will seem yellow.

Rashes on the baby

Untreated Lyme disease might potentially create a rash on the baby after the baby is delivered.


What should you do if you are pregnant and suspect Lyme disease?

If you're pregnant and think you might have Lyme disease, call your doctor right away.

Untreated Lyme disease during pregnancy can result in a placental infection. It is possible for the virus to spread from the mother to the fetus, although this is uncommon.

Fortunately, there is no increased risk of bad delivery outcomes with adequate antibiotic treatment. There are no studies that have been published that look at the developmental outcomes of children whose moms contracted Lyme disease while pregnant.


How is Lyme disease diagnosed?

Your healthcare practitioner would check the complete history and perform a detailed clinical examination. Your healthcare practitioner may decide to test your blood or treat you for Lyme disease based on your symptoms. The longer you've been infected, the more accurate blood testing becomes.

A Lyme disease blood test may not be positive for 4-6 weeks after you become ill (there is ongoing research to find improved methods of testing).


How is Lyme disease treated during pregnancy?

Antibiotic treatment in the early stages of Lyme disease typically results in a complete recovery. Pregnant women are treated in the same way and safely as non-pregnant adults, with oral amoxicillin or oral cefuroxime axetil for 2-3 weeks. Antibiotics such as doxycycline are typically not prescribed during pregnancy as they can harm the fetus. It is not advisable to self-medicate for Lyme disease, especially in pregnancy.


What is the prognosis?

Beginning treatment early, getting adequate rest, and taking antibiotics as prescribed can help you recover completely. Recovery may take several weeks or longer.

There is no test available currently to determine if one has been cured of Lyme disease. Retesting for Lyme disease is not recommended because blood tests might be positive for months or years after being treated. A positive test doesn’t mean one is still infected. It simply means that the immune system still remembers the infection.

It’s possible to get Lyme disease again if bitten by another infected tick; hence, it is important to protect oneself from tick bites.


What are the signs and symptoms of Lyme disease?

The signs and symptoms of Lyme disease vary depending on how long you've been infected. Consult your doctor if you're pregnant and have been bitten by a tick or if you live in or have traveled to an area where Lyme disease is prevalent.

The following are early signs and symptoms (within a month of being bitten):

  • Erythema migrans is a type of rash (also called EM). The rash around where the tick bites you looks like a bull's eye. It may or may not be itchy or feel warm.
  • Tiredness (being really tired and having little energy)
  • Chills and fever
  • Headache
  • Pain in the muscles and joints
  • Swollen lymph nodes. Lymph nodes are glands found all over the body that aid in the fight against infection. Unless they're enlarged, you won't be able to feel them.


The following are later signs or symptoms (a few months after being bitten):

  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness
  • Facial paralysis due to an EM rash. When you can't feel or move parts of your face, it's called facial paralysis.
  • Swelling and discomfort in the joints
  • Severe headache
  • Neck stiffness
  • If you have signs or symptoms of Lyme disease, call your healthcare practitioner right away so you can begin treatment and avoid complications. A blood test is given to you by your doctor to screen for Lyme disease and other illnesses. The results of Lyme disease tests sometimes take several weeks to arrive.


Even after receiving therapy, you may experience signs and symptoms for up to 6 months. This is known as Lyme disease post-treatment syndrome (also called PTLDS or chronic Lyme disease). Tell your doctor if you don't feel better following treatment.


How do you protect yourselves from Lyme disease?

There is currently no vaccine available to prevent Lyme disease. However, the risk of Lyme disease and avoiding tick bites can be lowered in the following ways:

Avoiding areas where ticks can be found
Blacklegged ticks (the ticks that spread Lyme disease) prefer wet, humid surroundings, especially in and around woodland or grassy regions. Ticks can be picked up while doing outdoor activities near your home or wandering through leaves and plants. To avoid ticks, stay in the middle of trails and stay away from thick bushes and other plants.

Using insect repellents

Ticks repel from the skin and clothing if insect repellents with DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus, para-menthane-diol, or 2-undecanone that have been approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are used. Permethrin (0.5%)-containing products should be used on garments, boots, pants, socks, and tents. It maintains its protective properties after multiple washes. Clothing that has been pre-treated is also available and may provide longer protection.

Check for ticks on a daily basis

After being outside, even in your own yard, check your body for ticks. When you return from a tick-infested location, check your entire body for ticks. View all portions of your body using a hand-held or full-length mirror and remove any ticks you detect. Check these areas of your body and your child's body (if there are children) for ticks with extra caution.

Ticks trapped in the skin of a host are commonly found in the following areas:

  • In and around the ears and under the arms
  • Within the bellybutton
  • Between the legs, behind the knees, and in and around all head and body hair
  • Around the midriff

Ticks can be carried into the house, so check your clothing and pets for them. Check your clothes and pets for ticks and remove them if you find any. Ticks can be killed by putting garments in a high-heat dryer.

Remove the ticks attached correctly and quickly

As soon as you see an attached tick, remove it with fine-tipped tweezers. Lyme disease is exceedingly unlikely to be transmitted if a tick is attached to your skin for less than 24 hours; however, other infections may be transmitted more quickly.

Be alert for symptoms of Lyme disease
Keep an eye out for signs or symptoms of Lyme disease, such as a rash or a fever, in the coming weeks. If you have any indications or symptoms, you should see a doctor. See tick removal for further details.

Keep an eye out for a fever or rash

An unexpected summer fever or strange rash, especially if you've been in tick habitat, may be the first indicators of Lyme disease, even if you don't remember getting bitten by a tick. If you're experiencing any symptoms, make an appointment with your doctor.

Prevent ticks on animals

Limit your family pets' access to tick-infested regions and use veterinarian-prescribed tick prevention items on your pets to keep ticks out of the house.

Keeping the yard tick-free

Create "tick-safe zones" in your landscaping. It's quite straightforward. Keep shrubs, bushes, and other vegetation away from patios, play areas, and playground equipment. To keep ticks away from recreational areas, regularly remove leaves, clear tall grasses and bushes around your home, and lay wood chips or gravel between lawns and forested areas (and away from you).

Make use of a chemical pesticide

To lower the number of ticks in treated areas of your yard, use acaricides (tick pesticides). Spraying, on the other hand, will not reduce your chance of infection. The primary feeding source for adult ticks is deer. Don’t allow deer to enter your yard and bring ticks with them by removing plants that attract deer and erecting obstacles (such as a fence) to keep them out.