Lyme Disease during Pregnancy - Health Education - DesiMD Healthcare - India

Lyme Disease during Pregnancy

Authored by DesiMD Doctor on 11 Mar 2016 - 16:19


Lyme disease is caused by bacteria called Borrelia Burgdorferi and is transmitted to humans through the bite of infected black legged ticks. Even though Lyme disease can occur in pregnant women, the possible harmful effects is yet unknown. It is difficult to diagnose Lyme disease, as no specific test is available to check for the occurrence of the disease infection that’s transmitted by a tick. Pregnant women who live in areas where ticks carry Lyme disease should carefully observe for symptoms of the illness so that they can be diagnosed and treated immediately. 

Michelle Collins, CNM, an assistant professor of nurse-midwifery at Vanderbilt University, says “There’s no conclusive evidence that Lyme disease can have any adverse effect on the unborn baby. Most women who get Lyme disease receive treatment and go on to have healthy babies.”

Early Symptoms (3-30 days after tick bite)

  • Joint and muscle pain
  • Fever, headache, chills, swollen lymph nodes and fatigue
  • EM (Erythema migraine) rash:
  • Occurs in about 70 to 80% of infected persons
  • Starts at the site of a tick bite after a delay of 3 to 30 days (average is about 7 days)
  • May feel warm to the touch but is rarely itchy or painful
  • Expands gradually over a period of days reaching up to 12 inches or more (30 cm) across
  • Sometimes appears as a bull’s eye type rash

Later Symptoms (days to months after tick bite)

  • Neck stiffness
  • Severe headaches
  • More EM rashes on other parts of the body
  • Arthritis with intense joint pain and swelling, especially on the knees and other large joints.
  • Intermittent pain in muscles, tendons, bones and joints
  • Irregular heart beat
  • Episodes of dizziness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nerve pain
  • Inflammation of the brain and spinal cord
  • Numbness or tingling in the hands or feet
  • Cognitive problems

Risk of Lyme disease during pregnancy:

  • CDC (Center for Disease Control) in its guidelines for pregnancy, mentions that no specific pattern of birth defects is seen with Lyme disease during pregnancy.
  • Study: A study was conducted to examine if prenatal exposure to lyme disease was connected with an increased risk of adverse pregnancy outcome. About 2000 women completed questionnaires and had sera tested for antibody to Borrelia burgdorferi  bacteria at their first prenatal visit and at the delivery. Birth weight, fetal death and length of gestation at delivery and congenital malformations were determined with regard to maternal Lyme disease pre and during pregnancy.
  • The study showed that maternal Lyme disease or an increased risk of exposure to Lyme disease was not connected with decreased birth weight, fetal death or length of gestation at delivery. Lyme disease or tick bites around the time of conception was not linked with congenital malformations. However, tick bites within 3 years before conception was connected with congenital malformations.

How can you protect yourself from Lyme disease?

  • Firstly Stay away from areas with tall grass or heavily wooded areas where there are a lot of ticks.
  • If you do venture into possible tick territory, Spray insect repellent that contains 20 to 30% concentration of DEET on clothes and exposed skin in order to prevent yourself from future illness. The CDC (Centers for disease prevention and control) has not suggested for any particular kind of repellant to use and mentions that no additional precautions need be employed for pregnant women when using repellant.
  • Make sure you wear long sleeves and pants, socks and shoes and also tuck your pants into your socks so as to avoid ticks anything to attach to.
  • Take a hot shower after working outdoors and dry your clothes on high heat for minimum 1 hour to kill any remaining ticks.

Treatment: The earlier the disease is diagnosed, the more effective your treatment will be.

  • If diagnosed sooner, Lyme disease can be best treated with a few weeks of antibiotics. However, inform your doctor that you are pregnant, so that you are prescribed with medicines that are completely safe to take.
  • If your disease is diagnosed at a later stage, you may suffer from recurring symptoms even after being treated with antibiotics. This is known as Post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome. However, there are no treatments proved yet to treat this kind of syndrome.



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