Lyme Disease and Pregnancy – What You Need To Know

lyme disease and pregnancyFor those dealing with pregnancy or are perhaps considering getting pregnant, but are worried about the effects of having and passing on Lyme Disease – this post is for you…

Lyme Disease and pregnancy is a complicated and often controversial issue.

If you have Lyme Disease and find out you are pregnant, you are likely to face a number of challenges.

You will be keen to make sure your baby isn’t infected during the gestation period and that your own treatment can continue effectively.

The aim of this article is to outline some of the main issues and answer some of the most common questions concerning Lyme Disease and pregnancy, based on findings and case studies within the current scientific literature.

By the end of this article you will have the information you need in order to work with your current health care professional, to formulate a Lyme Disease Pregnancy Treatment Plan that will protect both you and your unborn…

Common Lyme Disease & Pregnancy Questions

  • Your first concern is probably for your unborn child and whether they are at risk of becoming infected while you are carrying them.
  • You are probably also concerned to hear if there is any chance your baby could have birth defects or if there are any other consequences for fetuses who are born from a Lyme Disease pregnancy.
  • You might also want to know if it is safe for you to breastfeed your baby.
  • And what about the effect Lyme Disease will have on your own health during pregnancy and in the postpartum period.
  • Finally, you will want to know what treatment you can have and if this is safe for your unborn child.

If there are any other concerns that we haven’t answered here, then please feel free to contact us and we can point you in the right direction…

Can Lyme Disease pass from a pregnant woman to her baby during gestation?

Like many questions surrounding Lyme Disease, opinion is currently divided about whether the Borrelia bacteria can be transmitted from mother to child during pregnancy.

In the US, public health authorities recommend treatment by antibiotics for pregnant women with Lyme Disease, because they believe the disease can lead to miscarriage. [1]

The CDC does not believe, however, there is proven evidence that the bacteria can cross the placenta to infect the fetus.

A case study and review of scientific literature published in 2007 concluded that there was no proof that babies born from a Lyme Disease pregnancy could contract the illness and be born with birth defects. [2]

However, many doctors with experience in treating Lyme Disease do believe it is possible.

They say that they have evidence from patients they have treated who have been infected while in the womb.

They also argue that as other Spirochetes (spiral-shaped bacteria) such as Syphilis can be transmitted this way, it is also likely that the Borrelia bacteria that cause Lyme disease can cross the placenta as well. [3]pregnancy and lyme disease

In his paper, “Diagnostic hints and treatment guidelines for Lyme and other tick-borne illnesses Medical Doctor  Joseph Burrascano states that it is “well known” that fetuses can be infected by the bacteria crossing the placenta. [4]

A case study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, involved a pregnant women in her first trimester who developed Lyme Disease but did not receive antibiotic therapy. She then later lost her infant at 35 weeks gestational age (in it’s first week of life), from congenital hearth disease. An autopsy revealed the presence of the Lyme disease spirochete in the spleen, kidneys and bone marrow of the infant.

Stephen Harrod Buhner, a specialist in herbal medicine, also states that the Borrelial spirochetes can pass through to the unborn child. He goes on to note that it is commonly seen amongst those pregnant women who have had an unsuccessful course of antibiotics. The most common adverse outcomes, are reportedly loss of pregnancy and blood vessel malformation (caverous hemangioma).[5]

This controversy exists partly because there have not been many scientific studies of pregnant women with Lyme Disease.  Also, the studies that have been done have  shown inconclusive results.

It has been suggested that results might appear inconclusive because of the reaction of the immune system. Cases have been reported that show the immune system can mount a response to protect the fetus and that this response masks the symptoms. This is most often the case in people who have recently contracted the disease.

As the disease progresses and the immune system weakens, the fetus might not be so well protected.

This can mean a baby from a first pregnancy is born symptom-free, whereas a baby from a subsequent pregnancy when the mother’s immunological system is weaker may contract the disease. [6]

Can I take antibiotics during pregnancy?

The good news is, research shows that if a pregnant woman with Lyme Disease is given an adequate doses of antibiotics, their babies will not be infected with the disease.[7]

According to the CDC factsheet Pregnancy and Lyme Disease, treatment does not differ for patients who are pregnant except they are not given certain antibiotics such as doxycycline because they can have an adverse effect on the baby’s development.

The recommended treatment initially is 2-4 weeks of antibiotics, usually amoxicillin or cefuroxime axetil if there is an allergy. [8]

During pregnancy antibiotic levels are monitored to ensure doses are adequate and modified accordingly.

What are the symptoms of Lyme Disease during pregnancy?

During pregnancy, hormone changes can reportedly mask the symptoms of the disease, which can mean some women suffer less.

After pregnancy, however, symptoms often return and can be difficult to cope with, particularly extreme fatigue.

You can read more about the symptoms of Lyme Disease HERE: https://www.lymediseaseadvice.com/lyme-disease-symptoms/

For pregnant women with Lyme Disease, there is also reportedly a high risk of postpartum depression.

It’s a good idea to be prepared for this and wherever possible to arrange for help in the early weeks after your baby is born, to allow time for you to rest and receive the treatment you need.

lyme disease and pregnancy outcome

It is also really important to optimize your own health by following a nutritional program that reduces inflammation, builds immunity, aids digestion and avoids toxins. [9]

Breastfeeding for women with Lyme Disease?

Again, there is controversy about whether Lyme Disease can be transmitted during breastfeeding.

The CDC says there is no evidence for this. [10]

On the other hand, Burrascano states that breastmilk has been shown to contain spirochetes and advises women with Lyme Disease not to breastfeed for this reason. [11].

We will be updating this article as new information and evidence surfaces.

The Wrap: Lyme Disease and Pregnancy

While there is controversy about the evidence surrounding Lyme Disease and pregnancy, the research suggests that your baby may not suffer from the effects of Lyme Disease if you continue to receive effective treatment.

According to a publication “Maternal Lyme Borreliosis and pregnancy outcomes”, adverse outcomes reduced in those women treated with antibiotics in comparison to those women untreated. [12].

Apart from the fact that certain antibiotics are not available to pregnant women because they may affect the development of the fetus, the general consensus is that treatment for Lyme Disease can continue during pregnancy.

Some medicinal herbs may be beneficial, however, certain herbs may also have contraindications during pregnancy, therefore we highly recommend that you seek an integrative doctor or herbalist with experience in treating Lyme disease and pregnancy.

Pregnant women should be prepared for the fact that their symptoms might be relieved to a certain extent during pregnancy, but are likely to return after delivery and may be difficult to cope with.

Wherever possible, arrangements should be made for extra help after delivery to allow time for rest and treatment.

No matter what…it is imperative that you optimize your health with a nutritional program, which will help to build your immunity and digestive strength.

 

We hope that this article has answered some of your questions.

To learn how to heal using food —> see our Lyme Disease Diet article HERE: https://www.lymediseaseadvice.com/lyme-disease-diet/

Feel free to reach out to us with any other concerns that you may have regarding Lyme Disease and Pregnancy…

 


REFERENCES:

[1] Lavelle, M. and Lavelle, M. (2018). Mothers May Pass Lyme Disease to Children in the Womb. [online] Scientific American. Available at: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/mothers-may-pass-lyme-disease-to-children-in-the-womb.
[2] Walsh CA, e. (2018). Lyme disease in pregnancy: case report and review of the literature. – PubMed – NCBI. [online] Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17176487.
[3] Lavelle, M. and Lavelle, M. (2018). Mothers May Pass Lyme Disease to Children in the Womb. [online] Scientific American. Available at: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/mothers-may-pass-lyme-disease-to-children-in-the-womb.
[4] Burrascano, Joseph J. Jr. “Diagnostic Hints and Treatment Guidelines for Lyme and other tick borne illnesses.” Advanced Topics in Lyme Disease. 2008.
[5] Buhner, Stephen Harrod. “Healing Lyme”Raven Press, Silver City NM.2015.
[6] Lavelle, M. and Lavelle, M. (2018). Mothers May Pass Lyme Disease to Children in the Womb. [online] Scientific American. Available at: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/mothers-may-pass-lyme-disease-to-children-in-the-womb.
[7] Walsh CA, e. (2018). Lyme disease in pregnancy: case report and review of the literature. – PubMed – NCBI. [online] Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17176487.
[8] Cdc.gov. (2018). [online] Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/lyme/resources/toolkit/factsheets/10_508_Lyme-disease_PregnantWoman_FACTSheet.pdf.
[9] McFadzean, Nicola. Lyme Disease in Australia: Fundamentals of an Emerging Epidemic. South Lake Tahoe, BioMed Publishing Group, 2012
[10] Cdc.gov. (2018). [online] Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/lyme/resources/toolkit/factsheets/10_508_Lyme-disease_PregnantWoman_FACTSheet.pdf .
[11] Burrascano, Joseph J. Jr. “Diagnostic Hints and Treatment Guidelines for Lyme and other tick borne illnesses.” Advanced Topics in Lyme Disease, 2008.
[12] Lakos, A and Solymosi, M. (2010). Maternal Lyme Borreliosis and Pregnancy Outcomes.- PubMed-NCBI. [Online] Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19926325.

Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of Lyme Disease Advice or its staff.

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