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Pregnancy Problems

Lyme Disease During Pregnancy

If you’ve got Lyme disease during pregnancy — or think you may have been exposed to it — you’re probably wondering how it can affect you and baby. We've got all the answers.

What is Lyme disease during pregnancy?

Lyme disease is an infection that’s transmitted by a tick.

What are the signs of Lyme disease?

The most famous symptom of Lyme disease — a bull’s-eye type rash — doesn’t actually occur in every case of Lyme disease. (But if you notice a round rash, with a larger red ring around it, get it checked out by your doc ASAP.) Other symptoms of Lyme disease include fatigue, fever, joint pain, headachesmuscle aches and swollen lymph nodes.

Are there any tests for Lyme disease?

Yep. A blood test can help detect Lyme disease, but it’s usually more reliable a couple weeks after infection.

How common is Lyme disease?

Lyme disease is more common in the northeastern United States, but it’s been found in almost every state. People who spend time outdoors in rural areas are more likely to get Lyme disease than city dwellers.

How did I get Lyme disease?

Lyme disease is spread by ticks, tiny insects that are often no bigger than this “o”; if you’re bitten by an infected tick, you may get Lyme disease.

How will my Lyme disease affect my baby?

It probably won’t. “There’s no conclusive evidence that Lyme disease can have any adverse effect on the unborn baby,” says Michelle Collins, CNM, an assistant professor of nurse-midwifery at Vanderbilt University. “Most women who get Lyme disease receive treatment and go on to have healthy babies.”  (See next page for treatments.)

What’s the best way to treat Lyme disease during pregnancy?

Antibiotics can — and should — be used to treat Lyme disease. Only certain antibiotics are safe to take during pregnancy, though.

What can I do to prevent Lyme disease?

“Stay away from areas where there are a lot of ticks,” Collins says, like heavily wooded areas or areas with tall grass. If you do venture into possible tick territory, cover up. Wear socks and shoes, long sleeves and pants, and tuck your pants into your socks so that ticks can’t find their way in.

What do other pregnant moms do when they have Lyme disease?

“When I was 31 weeks pregnant with my son, I removed an engorged tick from my thigh. I went to my general practitioner right away and was tested for Lyme. I was relieved when the test came back negative, but I was told to come back in a month to be retested. I had no rash or symptoms, so I wasn't worried at all, but the second test came back with a slight positive. Since I was pregnant I couldn't take doxycycline, and I'm allergic to amoxicillin, so I had to take a different antibiotic.”

Are there any other resources for Lyme disease?

American College of Physicians

American Lyme Disease Foundation

Plus, more from The Bump:

Itchy Skin During Pregnancy

Headache During Pregnancy

What medications are safe to take during pregnancy?

By Jennifer L.W. Fink