10 Infections that can be Transmitted from Mother to Child

Pregnancy is a very delicate period in the life of a woman, and hence, has to be treated as such. There are a number of infections that can be transmitted from a pregnant mother to her baby.

During pregnancy, a mother’s immunity is decreased. This makes her prone to

These Infections can have adverse effects for both the mother & the child, if left untreated, and hence, its important to check for this infections during antenatal screening.


Mother and Child. Image Credits: UNICEF

The infections include;


  1. HIV
  2. Hepatitis B
  3. Gonorrhea
  4. Syphilis
  5. Genital Herpes
  6. Chlamydia
  7. Cytomegalovirus
  8. Malaria
  9. Rubella
  10. Hepatitis C.


Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)

Top of the list, and the most important of all is the highly virulent and deadly HIV virus which causes AIDS. HIV is responsible for millions of deaths annually. The disease currently has no cure, but drugs are available to manage the condition and reduce the viral load. The virus can be transmitted either during labour, delivery or breast feeding.

Hence, if a pregnant woman is screened and discovered to be HIV positive, she would be placed on highly active anti-retroviral therapy (HAART). These drugs would not kill the virus or cure the disease, but, if taken as prescribed would help reduce the amount of the virus in her body (viral load), thereby decreasing the chances of transmitting the virus to her unborn baby.
Pregnant women with HIV should opt for elective Caesarian section (C/S) if they can afford it, and they should not breast feed if they can afford it all through. If they cant, they should offer only breastfeeding. No mixed feeding.


Hepatitis B

This is a disease caused by a virus known as the Hepatitis B virus. The virus causes inflammation of the liver, and can lead to a lot of adverse effects for both mother & child. The virus can be transmitted either during labour, delivery or breast feeding.
Also like HIV, there are antiviral drugs that are available to reduce the viral load, and decrease the chances of transmitting the virus to her unborn baby.

Hepatitis C: similar to Hepatitis B in most aspects.



This is an infection caused by a bacteria known as Neisseria gonorrhoea, otherwise known as gonococcus. It is mostly sexually transmitted. This infection can cause adverse effects for the baby, and can even lead to visual problems and blindness, a condition known as Opthalmia Neonatorum. If detected, antibiotics are available to treat the infection, and prevent this from happening.



This is another infection that is mostly sexually transmitted. It is caused by a bacteria known as treponema pallidum.
Symptoms: are ulcers around the genital & anal area as well as the mouth that is not painful. You can also have a rash. It can cause a lot of adverse effects for the baby such as disability as well as possible death in the womb. If detected, there are drugs available for treatment.


Genital Herpes

This is an infection cause by a virus known as the Herpes Simplex Virus. It is mostly sexually transmitted, and similar to Syphilis, it can cause ulcers & sores in the genital & anal area, as well as the mouth & other body parts.
There is no cure for the disease, but they are effective antivirals that can be used to manage the condition and prevent harm to the child as well as reduce the risk of transmission. The virus is more harmful to the child if the infection occurs late in the 3rd trimester.



This is another infection caused by an organism known as Chlamydia trachomatis. It is most commonly transmitted by sexual intercourse. It can be passed from mother to child & in the child, it can cause conjunctivitis & pneumonia. It can also be cured using effective antibiotics once detected.


Cytomegalovirus (CMV)

This is a viral infection caused by the CMV virus. It is a DNA herpes virus. It is usually transmitted through air droplets. It might not show any symptoms in the mother, but in the child, it can lead to the development of a small head (microcephaly) among other things.
It can be transmitted from mother to child and can have adverse effects on the child. Just like other heroes virus, there is no cure.



In our environment, there is a huge burden of malaria. It is a disease caused by a protozoan known as Plasmodium (falciparum in our environment). It can be transmitted from the mother to her baby. It can be prevented by using Antimalarial prophylaxis given during routine antenatal visits. You can use treated net in addition.



This is an infection caused by a Togavirus. It is mostly transmitted through air droplets just like the coronavirus. The disease can be prevented by vaccination before or after pregnancy (for subsequent babies), but not during the pregnancy.
Symptoms: Women affected with this condition would have a rash & a fever.
In the child, it can cause: deafness, congenital cataracts, blindness as well as other problems.
There is no cure for this disease, and in countries where it is allowed, abortion is offered if the woman is infected before 16 weeks of pregnancy, as the damage would have already been done.

If you have any of these, always inform your healthcare provider so they help you plan & protect your baby

A few of them are routinely screened for at antenatal care.

Stay Healthy!

Written By:


  • Dr. Abosede Lewu

    Dr Abosede Lewu is a specialist Obstetrician and Gynaecologist. She is an Expert on Women's Health, (Fibroids, Infertility, Menstruation & Pregnancy issues). Dr. Abosede Lewu holds an MBBS Degree from the University of Maiduguri, Borno State Nigeria. You can follow Dr. Lewu on twitter: @NaijaObgyn for all Obstetrics and Gynaecology related complaints.

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