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A risk factor is something that increases your likelihood of getting a disease or condition.

It is possible to get an infection in pregnancy even if you do not have risk factors.

Risk factors for infection in pregnancy vary depending on the type of infection. General risk factors for infection during pregnancy include:

Poor Hygiene

Viruses and bacteria that cause infections are passed through person-to-person contact. You are at higher risk of spreading and getting infections caused by bacteria and viruses if you:

  • Do not wash your hands.
  • Touch your nose, mouth, and eyes with contaminated fingers.
Sexual Contact

Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, herpes simplex virus, and HIV are passed from person to person during sexual contact. Your risk for STDs is higher if you have had:

  • Many sex partners
  • Sex with someone who has had many partners
  • Sex without using condoms
Contaminated Foods

Germs that cause infections such as listeriosis and toxoplasmosis have been found in:

  • Uncooked meats
  • Undercooked meat , such as rare beef, from infected animals
  • Uncooked vegetables
  • Unpasteurized milk
  • Foods made from unpasteurized milk
  • Processed foods

Your risk for these infections is higher if you eat these foods.

Lifestyle Factors

Lifestyle risk factors include:

  • Having close contact with someone who has an infection
  • Using household items that were used by an infected person and not properly cleaned
  • Handling cat litter or soil where there is cat feces
  • Having a job that involves contact with bodily fluids, such as a:
    • Childcare worker
    • First aid or emergency worker
    • Funeral director
    • Healthcare worker
    • Dentist
    • Dental assistant
    • Firefighter
    • Police personnel

Bacterial vaginosis during pregnancy. American Pregnancy Association website. Available at: http://americanpregnancy.org/pregnancycomplications/bacterialvaginosis-2.html. Updated May 2005. Accessed July 29, 2013.

Chorioamnionitis. Cleveland Clinic website. Available at: http://www.clevelandclinic.org/health/health-info/docs/3800/3857.asp?index=12309. Accessed July 29, 2013.

Cytomegalovirus (CMV) and congenital CMV infection. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/cmv/index.html. Updated July 28, 2010. Accessed July 29, 2013.

Group B Strep (GBS). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/groupbstrep/index.html. Updated May 23, 2012. Accessed July 29, 2013.

Listeria and pregnancy. American Pregnancy Association website. Available at: http://www.americanpregnancy.org/pregnancyhealth/listeria.html. Updated June 2011. Accessed July 29, 2013.

Pregnancy and fifth disease. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/parvovirusB19/pregnancy.html. Updated February 14, 2012. Accessed July 29, 2013.

STDs and pregnancy. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/std/pregnancy/default.htm. Updated July 10, 2013, Accessed July 29, 2013.

Toxoplasmosis. American Academy of Family Physicians Family Doctor website. Available at: http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/diseases-conditions/toxoplasmosis.html. Updated January 2011. Accessed July 29, 2013.

Urinary tract infection during pregnancy. American Pregnancy Association website. Available at: http://www.americanpregnancy.org/pregnancycomplications/utiduringpreg.html. Updated April 2006. Accessed July 29, 2013.

Varicella. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us. Updated April 13, 2013. Accessed July 29, 2013.

Last reviewed July 2013 by Andrea Chisholm, MD; Brian Randall, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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