Prevent Infections During Pregnancy

A pregnant woman holding her stomach

If you’re pregnant or planning a pregnancy, there are simple steps you can take to protect your fetus or newborn from infections that cause serious health problems.

Cytomegalovirus (CMV)

A pregnant woman infected with CMV can pass the virus to her baby during pregnancy. About one out of every 200 babies is born with congenital CMV infection. However, only about one in five babies with congenital CMV infection will be sick from the virus or have long-term health problems.

CMV is passed from infected people to others through body fluids, such as saliva, urine, blood, vaginal secretions, and semen. Infants and young children are more likely to shed CMV in their saliva and urine than older children and adults. Women may be able to lessen their risk of getting CMV by reducing contact with saliva and urine from babies and young children. Some ways to do this are by not sharing food and utensils with babies and young children, and washing hands after changing diapers. These cannot eliminate your risk of getting CMV, but may lessen your chances of getting it.

More Information on CMV and Pregnant Women

Group B Strep

If you are pregnant—or know someone who is—you need to know about group B strep (GBS). About 1 in 4 pregnant women in the United States carry the bacteria that cause GBS disease. Babies can get very sick and even die if their mothers pass GBS bacteria to them during childbirth. If you are pregnant, talk to your doctor or midwife about getting a GBS test. The test is simple and does not hurt. If you test positive, you will get an antibiotic during labor to prevent the bacteria from spreading to your baby.  Most babies born to women who tested positive for GBS bacteria do not need treatment if their mother received antibiotics during labor.

More Information on Group B Strep and Your Pregnancy

Listeriosis and Pregnancy

Listeriosis is a rare but serious infection caused by eating food contaminated with bacteria called Listeria. Listeriosis mostly affects pregnant women, newborns, older adults, and people with weakened immune systems. Pregnant women are 10 times more likely than other people to get listeriosis. About 1 in 6 cases of listeriosis are associated with pregnancy.

Pregnant women typically experience only fever and other flu-like symptoms, such as fatigue and muscle aches (see “What are the symptoms of listeriosis?“). However, infections during pregnancy can lead to miscarriage, stillbirth, premature delivery, or life-threatening infection of the newborn.

A pregnant woman eating salad
Pregnant women are about 10 times more likely than other people to get listeriosis.

In general, you can protect yourself from listeriosis by following these guidelines:

  • Avoid eating cheese made from raw (unpasteurized) milk.
    • Soft cheeses made with pasteurized milk, including commercial cottage cheese, cream cheese, and mozzarella, are generally regarded as safe. However, some soft cheeses made with pasteurized milk, including Hispanic-style soft cheeses, have become contaminated with Listeria during processing. This could occur again.
  • Avoid raw (unpasteurized) milk and products made from it, such as cheese, ice cream, and yogurt. Look for the word “pasteurized” on the label. If in doubt, don’t buy it!
  • Do not eat raw or lightly cooked sprouts of any kind (including alfalfa, clover, radish, and mung bean sprouts).
  • Eat cut melon right away or refrigerate it at 40° F or colder and for no more than 7 days. Throw away cut melons left at room temperature for more than 4 hours.
  • Avoid eating hot dogs, lunch meats, cold cuts, other deli meats (such as bologna), or fermented or dry sausages unless they are heated to an internal temperature of 165°F or until steaming hot just before serving. Don’t let juice from hot dog and lunch meat packages get on other foods, utensils, and food preparation surfaces. Wash hands after handling hot dogs, lunch meats, and deli meats.
  • Do not eat refrigerated pâté or meat spreads from a deli or meat counter or from the refrigerated section of a store. Foods that do not need refrigeration, like canned or shelf-stable pâté and meat spreads, are safe to eat. Refrigerate these foods after opening.
  • Do not eat refrigerated smoked seafood unless it is in a cooked dish, such as a casserole, or unless it is canned or shelf-stable.

If you are pregnant and Hispanic, your risk of getting listeriosis is even greater. Pregnant Hispanic women are about 24 times more likely than other people to get listeriosis. Be aware that some Hispanic-style cheeses, such as queso fresco, that were made from pasteurized milk but were contaminated when the cheese was being made, have caused Listeria infections. Hispanic-style soft cheeses include queso fresco, queso blanco, queso blando, queso Cotija, queso panela, queso ranchero, cuajada en terrón, and others. Learn about additional ways to reduce your risk for listeriosis.

If you are pregnant and have a fever and other symptoms of possible listeriosis, such as fatigue and muscle aches, within two months after eating a possibly contaminated food, you should seek medical care and tell the doctor about eating possibly contaminated food. If you are infected, your health care provider can give you antibiotics that can protect your fetus or newborn. If you ate food possibly contaminated with Listeria and do not feel sick, most experts believe you do not need tests or treatment, even if you are in a group that is more likely to get listeriosis.

More Information on Listeriosis and Foods to Avoid During Pregnancy

Zika and Pregnancy

Zika virus can be passed from a pregnant woman to her developing baby during pregnancy. Zika virus infection during pregnancy can cause a birth defect called microcephaly and other severe fetal brain defects. Zika primarily spreads through infected Aedes mosquitoes. You can also get Zika through sex without a condom with someone infected by Zika, even if that person does not show symptoms of Zika.

CDC recommends pregnant women not travel to areas with Zika Outbreaks and carefully consider risks of travel to other areas. We do not have accurate information on the current level of risk in specific areas. The large outbreak in the Americas is over, but Zika is and will continue to be a potential risk in many countries in the Americas and around the world. In 2018 and 2019, no local spread of Zika virus has been reported in the continental United States.

Pregnant women

  • Should not travel to areas with risk of Zika.
  • Who must travel to one of these areas should talk to their doctor or healthcare provider first and strictly follow steps to prevent mosquito bites during the trip.
  • Who have a sex partner who lives in or has traveled to an area with Zika should protect themselves by using condoms correctly, from start to finish, every time they have sex, or they should not have sex during the pregnancy. This includes vaginal, anal, oral sex, and the sharing of sex toys.

Women trying to become pregnant

Partners of pregnant women who live in or have traveled to an area with Zika

  • Should take steps to prevent mosquito bites.
  • Should use a condom correctly, from start to finish, every time they have sex, or not have sex during the pregnancy. This includes vaginal, anal, and oral sex and the sharing of sex toys. Condoms include male or female condoms. Not having sex is the only way to be sure that Zika will not spread through sex.
  • Should talk to a healthcare provider about how to prevent sexual transmission of Zika during pregnancy and reduce the risk of birth defects related to Zika.

For more information, visit our Zika and Pregnancy webpage.

Page last reviewed: June 19, 2019