What are the risks of clostridium difficile (C. diff) during pregnancy?

There is little evidence about the risks of C. diff during pregnancy. However, C. diff bacteria don’t usually affect healthy people.

If you’re pregnant and have any concerns about C. diff, you can get advice from your midwife or GP. You can also call NHS Direct on 0845 4647 or NHS 24 in Scotland 0845 4242424.

C. diff and antibiotics

C. diff bacteria are present naturally in the gut of about 3% of healthy adults.

C. diff rarely causes problems in healthy adults, as the good bacteria in your gut keep it under control. However, some antibiotics can affect the balance of the good bacteria. When this happens, C. diff can begin to multiply and produce toxins (poisons), causing symptoms such as diarrhoea and fever. At this point, a person is said to be infected with C. diff.

C. diff infection

Once C. diff bacteria start to produce toxins, the bacteria can spread easily.

C. diff infections usually happen in places where many people are taking antibiotics, and they are in close contact with each other. For example, hospitals and care homes. Older people are most at risk from infection, and most cases (80%) affect people over 65.

C. diff infections during pregnancy are very rare.

There is no evidence to suggest that C. diff infection during pregnancy can harm the unborn baby.


NHS Choices

Published Date 2010-07-23

Last Review Date 2009-09-28

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