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Lyme Disease During Pregnancy: Symptoms, Treatment And Prevention

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Lyme disease during pregnancy is usually not a cause for concern, provided it is diagnosed and treated early (1). The disease occurs due to an infection from the Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria, which are spread through the bite of an infected deer tick, also called the black-legged tick (2). The ticks are commonly found in forests or wooded areas. The infection is a common tick-borne disease in the Northeast and the upper Midwest regions of the United States.

If you feel unwell after being bitten by a tick, you must consult a doctor for a timely diagnosis of Lyme disease. A significant delay in treatment may increase the risk of complications, which may affect the pregnancy. Thankfully, the disease can be prevented by avoiding bites from the tick.

Read this post to know the symptoms, treatments, and preventive measures for Lyme disease in pregnancy.

How Can Lyme Disease Affect Pregnancy?

The possible pregnancy outcomes of Lyme disease include (3) (4):

  1. Placental infection is one of the most common adverse outcomes. Transplacental transmission of the infection from the mother to the fetus is rare but possible.
  2. Urinary tract defects resulting from Lyme disease may include urinary tract infection (UTI), pain, and kidney disorders.
  3. Adverse birth outcomes or fetal issues include:
  • A newborn whose mother did not receive treatment for the disease can have congenital heart disease. This can become fatal and lead to the demise of the baby.
  • The fetus may die inside the womb. This is called a stillbirth and occurs after 20 weeks of gestation.
  • The newborn may develop jaundice due to an increased bilirubin in the blood.
  • Some babies may develop a rash.

What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Lyme Disease In Pregnancy?

The manifestation of Lyme disease typically occurs 14 to 21 days post the infection, while some may not experience any symptoms. The early signs of Lyme disease infection are (2) (3):

  • A rash, Erythema migrans (EM) around the site of the bite giving the appearance of a bull’s eye
  • Muscle and joint pain
  • Fatigue
  • Red rashes
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • High temperature and chills
  • Headache

The symptoms may also, at times, appear as late as a few months after the infected tick bite. Besides EM rash, other common late symptoms include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness
  • Face paralysis
  • Acute headache
  • Stiffness of the neck

Sometimes, Lyme disease could be taken for flu due to the common symptoms, such as fever, joint pain, headache, and fatigue. However, Lyme disease is also accompanied by swollen lymph nodes, bull’s eye rash, and other distinctive symptoms besides the common flu symptoms. Another distinction is the time of occurrence. Lyme disease is most frequent during the summertime when the ticks are in their hungry stage (5).

How Is Lyme Disease Treated In Pregnant Women?

If you experience Lyme disease symptoms, you should consult your health care provider for early diagnosis and treatment. While the observation of symptoms is the basic diagnosis, a confirmatory blood test can give an actual result only towards the later stage of infection, mostly after four to six weeks post-infection (6).

The treatment for Lyme disease include (6) (2):

  • Early treatment: For pregnant and non-pregnant women, the treatment involves oral administration of antibiotics, cefuroxime, and amoxicillin, for two to three weeks. The antibiotics, such as doxycycline, may not be used for pregnant women to help prevent adverse birth outcomes or fetal complications.
  • Late treatment: For the advanced stage of infection, intravenous antibiotic therapy may be administered.

How To Prevent Lyme Disease In Pregnancy?

The suggested preventive measures for Lyme disease include (7) (6):

  • Use eco-friendly insect repellents, such as DEET, lemon eucalyptus oil, and IR3535. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines state their safety during pregnancy.
  • Wear clothes infused with anti-ticks medication such as permethrin.
  • Warm your clothes for at least an hour after coming indoors to get rid of any ticks.
  • Take a shower after returning from any wooded or forest area.
  • Examine your body for any ticks, especially under the armpits, behind the knees, and the groin.

Although Lyme disease is one of the most common tick-borne infections, timely diagnosis can help cope with the disease. Pregnant women should be especially careful while venturing in any tick-infested area, such as a forest or lakeside. Upon infection, it is important to seek immediate treatment to avoid future negative outcomes.

References:

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Aneesha Amonz

Aneesha holds a Bachelor's degree in Biotechnology from USTM, Meghalaya and Master’s degree in Applied Microbiology from VIT, Vellore. She has worked on different research projects in the field of Food Sciences. In addition, she has an internship experience in Oil India Limited as an R&D project trainee. As a writer at MomJunction, Aneesha ensures her content is engaging and... more