5 Common Infections in Pregnancy That Can Transmit to the Baby

Pregnancy increases susceptibility to various infections, some of which can transmit to the baby. Here’s what you should be aware of.

5 Common Infections During Pregnancy That Can Be Passed On To The Baby
5 Common Infections During Pregnancy That Can Be Passed On To The Baby

Throughout pregnancy, a woman experiences numerous discomforting symptoms and encounters diverse viruses and bacteria, increasing the risk of infections. While many infections, such as those affecting the skin, urinary tract, and respiratory tract, typically present minimal threat, there are occasions when specific infections can be transmitted to the fetus before or during delivery, posing significant dangers to both the mother and the unborn child. Presented below are some prevalent infections that may arise during pregnancy and have the potential to be transmitted to the infant.

Cytomegalovirus (CMV)

Cytomegalovirus (CMV)

CMV, a virus typically not associated with severe health complications, tends to persist in the body for life once contracted.

Dr. Ila Jalote, Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist at Manipal Hospital, Gurugram, notes, “CMV is quite prevalent, affecting up to 60% of adults by age 40.”

According to the UK National Health Service (NHS), infections caused by CMV are common in young children, posing risks during pregnancy. The NHS states, “Infection can pose dangers to unborn babies, including hearing loss, visual impairment or blindness, learning difficulties, and epilepsy.”

Although no vaccine currently exists for CMV, Dr. Jalote emphasizes, “Preventing transmission involves practicing good hygiene, such as frequent handwashing, particularly after contact with young children’s saliva or urine. Pregnant women should also refrain from sharing utensils or drinks with young children.”

Rubella (German Measles)

Rubella, a contagious viral illness, spreads through respiratory droplets and replicates in the nose, throat, and local lymph nodes. The World Health Organization (WHO) indicates that it can affect pregnant women by infiltrating the placenta and the developing fetus. Although uncommon, the NHS warns that rubella contracted during the first four months of pregnancy can result in significant complications, such as birth defects and miscarriage.

Dr. Jalote underscores the efficacy of the MMR (Measles, Mumps, Rubella) vaccine in preventing rubella. “Ensuring women receive vaccination before conception or during prenatal care establishes immunity and mitigates transmission,” she advises.


Toxoplasmosis is induced by a parasite known as Toxoplasma gondii, commonly transmitted through consumption of undercooked meat or contact with cat feces, according to Mayo Clinic. Additionally, the parasite can be transferred from a mother to her baby during pregnancy.

To prevent infection, Dr. Jalote suggests thorough cooking of meat, washing fruits and vegetables, using gloves when handling soil or cat litter, and assigning someone else to manage the cat’s litter box if pregnant.



Syphilis, a sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by the bacterium Treponema pallidum, primarily spreads through sexual contact, but can also be transmitted through blood transfusion or from a pregnant woman to her fetus, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Untreated or inadequately treated maternal syphilis can lead to adverse birth outcomes (ABOs), with estimates ranging from 50% to 80% depending on the stage of syphilis. These outcomes may include stillbirth (most commonly), neonatal death, prematurity, low birth weight, and infants born with congenital syphilis.

HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus)

HIV remains a significant global health concern, with over four crore deaths reported thus far. According to the WHO, an estimated 3.9 crore individuals were living with HIV by the end of 2022. During the same year, 6.3 lakh people succumbed to HIV-related causes, while 10.3 lakh individuals contracted the virus.

The primary mode of HIV transmission is through the exchange of bodily fluids with infected individuals. Moreover, transmission from mother to child during pregnancy and delivery is also possible. So, what measures can be taken?

Dr. Jalote emphasizes the importance of routine prenatal HIV screening. If a pregnant woman tests positive for HIV, antiretroviral medication can significantly reduce the risk of transmission to the baby. Additionally, healthcare providers may recommend formula feeding instead of breastfeeding to prevent transmission.

Ways to prevent infections upfront are widely known and practiced

Ways to prevent infections upfront are widely known and practiced

Dr. Archana Sinha, a Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist at Fortis Hospital, Anandapur, Kolkata, highlights several measures to prevent specific infections:

  • Regularly washing hands with soap and water.
  • Refraining from consuming raw milk and milk products.
  • Avoiding contact with animals or rodents.
  • Using protection during sexual intercourse.
  • Undergoing Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STD) testing.

Additionally, Dr. Sinha emphasizes the importance of consulting a healthcare professional for appropriate vaccination or medication. Ensuring timely administration of the right vaccines is crucial for both the mother and the baby to maintain good health.