Infectious Agents – Reproductive Health
Working with or exposure to certain bacteria, viruses, or other infectious agents could increase your chances of having a miscarriage, a baby with a birth defect, or other reproductive problems. Here, you can learn more about these agents and what you can do to reduce your exposure for a healthier pregnancy.
Why should I be concerned about exposure?
- Some infections can pass to a fetus during pregnancy and cause a miscarriage or birth defect.
- Infections like seasonal influenza (the flu) and pneumonia can cause more serious illness in pregnant women.
Which infectious agents can be harmful during pregnancy?
These and other infections can pass to the fetus during pregnancy, or cause more severe illness to a pregnant woman:
- Chicken pox (varicella zoster virus)
- Coccidioidomycosis (Valley Fever)
- Cytomegalovirus (CMV)
- Ebola virus
- Hepatitis B virus (HBV)
- Hepatitis C virus (HCV)
- Hepatitis E virus (HEV)
- Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)
- Parvovirus B19 (Fifth disease)
- Rubella (German measles)
- Zika Virus
Who is exposed to infectious agents?
- Healthcare workers
- Veterinary medicine and veterinary service workers
- Childcare workers and teachers
- Tattooists and body piercers
- Laboratory workers
What is not known?
- We don’t know what causes most miscarriages, birth defects, and other reproductive problems. If you work with or are exposed to bacteria, viruses, or other infectious agents and have a miscarriage or a baby with a birth defect, we can’t always tell if it was caused by exposure to these agents or if it was caused by something else.
- We don’t always know what levels of exposure to infectious agents are safe for every person. Follow your workplace guidelines and recommendations to reduce or eliminate your exposure as much as possible.
What can I do to protect myself and reduce or eliminate exposure?
- Make sure your vaccines are up to date. Seasonal influenza (flu) and other illnesses can cause more serious illness in pregnant women.
- Get your seasonal flu shot. If you are pregnant, you should get the flu shot (inactivated vaccine) and not the nasal vaccine (LAIV, live attenuated nasal vaccine).
- Do not get the MMR (measles mumps rubella) vaccine during pregnancy. If you are a pregnant healthcare worker who is not vaccinated and not immune, do not work with rubella-infected patients. Rubella infection is dangerous for pregnant women and their babies.
- Learn more about vaccines for pregnant women.
- Wash your hands often if you are around someone who is sick.
- If you work in healthcare, veterinary medicine and services, or childcare:
- Follow recommended infection control guidelines (standard precautions) carefully. If you follow these guidelines, you will be generally at no higher risk of catching a harmful infection from a patient than other workers. However, there are exceptions for some pregnant women and some infectious agents. Learn more about infection control in healthcare settings.
- If you work with patients infected with unusual pathogens or emerging infections, contact us if you would like more information about working with these agents during pregnancy.
- CDC has issued recommendations that healthcare workers who are pregnant should not provide care for patients with Ebola because of the likely increased maternal and fetal risks. Furthermore, the recommended PPE for care of patients with Ebola may be particularly restrictive and uncomfortable for pregnant healthcare workers.
- If you work in a tattoo or body piercing studio: Follow safe practices in body art.
- If you work in a laboratory:
- Follow safety guidelines for laboratory workers. These guidelines will help you prevent laboratory-acquired infection when followed correctly. However, pregnant lab workers should handle certain pathogens with special precaution.
- For laboratory work with concentrated cultures of pathogens, refer to the Biosafety Manual for Biomedical Laboratories.
- Learn about guidelines for human and animal medical diagnostic labs.
- Learn about correct use of biological safety cabinets.
- CDC has issued updated guidance on working with Zika virus in laboratories.
- If you work with unusual pathogens, emerging infections, genetically modified agents, or patients infected with these, you can contact us for more specific information about working with these agents during pregnancy.