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Screening for infectious disease during pregnancy

Your blood sample will be tested for a number of infectious diseases.

You'll be offered:

  • screening for certain infectious diseases
  • tests for immunity to other infections (to check if you are at risk of developing these during pregnancy)

This is part of free public antenatal care. Ask your midwife or doctor if you have any questions.

Immunity checks

There are different types of immunity checks.

Immunity to rubella (German measles)

All pregnant women will have a test for immunity to rubella (German measles). Although it is now rare, rubella in early pregnancy can be dangerous for your baby.

Most people are immune to rubella. This is usually because they were vaccinated as a child. If you have low immunity, you will be offered a vaccination after your baby is born.

Rubella information for pregnant women

Immunity to chickenpox

Most people are immune to chickenpox because they had it in childhood.

Some hospitals will test you for immunity to chickenpox while you're pregnant, especially if you cannot remember if you've had chickenpox before.

If you get chickenpox while you're pregnant, it could be dangerous for you or your baby unless you get treatment.

If you're in contact with chickenpox and you're not sure if you are immune, contact your GP or midwife straight away. They will be able to check this for you and recommend treatment.

If you are not immune to chickenpox you should discuss vaccination after pregnancy.

Chickenpox in pregnancy

Immunity to parvovirus

Parvovirus is also known as slapped cheek disease. You can get tested to see if you are immune to parvovirus. You may need to get tested if you are in contact with a person who has the virus.

If you are immune to parvovirus, then you should have no concerns. If you have the infection, your pregnancy will be watched closely. You may also need extra ultrasound scans.

Infectious disease screening

Your maternity team will speak to you about your care during pregnancy and birth to limit the chance of an infection affecting your baby.

They will do this if:

  • you have an infectious disease
  • get an infectious disease during your pregnancy

In certain situations your baby may be given vaccinations or medicine after birth to reduce the chance of them developing an infectious disease.

Syphilis

If syphilis in pregnancy is not treated, it can cause:

You will be offered a test for syphilis during your pregnancy. If you test positive, you may be offered treatment before your baby is born.

Your baby may need treatment at birth and tests at specific times for up to 2 years.

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is a virus that can cause liver disease if it is not treated. If you have or carry the hepatitis B virus, you should have follow-up care to make sure you have no complications from this.

Testing for hepatitis B is offered to everyone in pregnancy. This is so that your baby can get treatment straight away after birth if needed.

All babies are routinely offered hepatitis B vaccination as part of the childhood immunisation programme. But if you test positive for hepatitis B while you are pregnant, your baby will be vaccinated earlier.

Vaccinating your baby at birth works well to reduce the chance that your baby will get infected. An injection of antibodies may be given to your baby to further reduce the chance. Your baby will be tested at 8 to 10 months old.

Hepatitis C

Like hepatitis B, hepatitis C is a virus that can cause liver disease if it is not treated. In about 1 in every 20 pregnancies with hepatitis C, the virus passes to the baby. Unfortunately, there is no way to prevent this.

Effective treatments for the virus are available. Sometimes the virus clears by itself. If you test positive for hepatitis C, your baby will be tested and you will be offered follow-up treatment for hepatitis C.

HIV

If you have HIV, you will be referred to a specialist clinic where you will meet an expert healthcare team. They will support you through your diagnosis and treatment.

The team will make special arrangements for your pregnancy care and birth. This will include medicine for you and your baby to keep you well and reduce your baby's risk of getting infected.

If you have HIV and do not get treatment while you're pregnant, there is a much higher chance that your baby could become infected. Taking medicine while you're pregnant is really effective at reducing this chance. It is now very rare for a baby to be born with HIV in Ireland.

Your baby will get a HIV test at birth and at specific times for up to 2 years.

Successful HIV treatment reduces the chance of your baby becoming infected through breastmilk. But there is still a small risk.

Most mothers with HIV choose to formula (bottle) feed their baby. There is no risk of getting HIV through formula feeding.

Talk to you doctor and midwife about feeding your baby so you can make the best decision for you and your baby.

Types of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) - sexualwellbeing.ie

Page last reviewed: 22 December 2023
Next review due: 22 December 2026