Page modified at: 31/12/2010
Advice to pregnant women during the lambing season
Women who are, or who may be, pregnant are potentially at risk of acquiring certain infectious diseases from pregnant livestock including sheep.
Pregnant women who come into close contact with sheep during lambing may risk their own health and that of their unborn child, from infections which can occur in some ewes. These include chlamydiosis (enzootic abortion of ewes – EAE), toxoplasmosis and listeriosis, which are common causes of abortion in ewes, and Q fever.
Although the number of reports of these infections and human miscarriages resulting from contact with sheep are extremely small it is important that pregnant women are aware of the potential risks.
To avoid the possible risk of infection, pregnant women are advised that they should:
- Not help to lamb or milk ewes
- Avoid contact with aborted or new-born lambs
- Avoid contact with the afterbirth
- Avoid handling (including washing) clothing, boots, or any materials that have come into contact with ewes, lambs or afterbirth.
- Should ensure that full hygiene precautions are followed by all household members
- Ensure partners attending lambing ewes observe full hygiene procedures
- Ensure that if they or their partners do come into contact, they should shower, bath or wash thoroughly (including hair) as soon as practicable after handling a lambing ewe
- Scrub hands, and keep finger nails short and clean
- Wash clothes used in lambing separately, pregnant women should not handle dirty clothes worn during the lambing season - if it is not possible to clean up thoroughly during the night, then sleep in separate bedrooms
- Should not handle any vaccines, and should avoid contact with recently vaccinated sheep.
- Pregnant women should seek medical advice if they experience fever or influenza-like symptoms, or if concerned that they could have acquired infection from a farm environment.
Comprehensive information on this topic is available from the HPA website