What are the risks of hand, foot and mouth disease during pregnancy?

If a pregnant woman gets hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD), there’s normally no risk to the unborn baby, as complications are rare.

Hand, foot and mouth disease is rare in healthy adults, so the risk of infection during pregnancy is also very low.

However, if you develop hand, foot and mouth disease:

  • during the first three months of pregnancy – there is some limited evidence that, in very rare cases, this may result in miscarriage
  • shortly before you give birth – the infection can be passed on to your baby

Most babies born with hand, foot and mouth disease have only mild symptoms. On rare occasions, complications can affect the baby’s organs. Occasionally, these complications are severe.

When to get advice

If you develop any type of rash when you’re pregnant, contact your GP or midwife. If you think you've got hand, foot and mouth disease, seek their advice.

What is hand, foot and mouth disease?

Hand, foot and mouth disease is a viral infection, usually caused by coxsackievirus A. It’s highly contagious and spreads through:

  • coughs and sneezes
  • contact with infected stools (faeces)

Hand, foot and mouth disease is common in children but rare in healthy adults. Most adults are immune to the virus because they had contact with it as a child.

Early symptoms of hand, foot and mouth disease include a fever and sore throat, followed by sores or blisters in your mouth and on your hands and feet. The incubation period (the time between catching the disease and showing symptoms) is three to six days. During this time, the virus can be passed on.

There’s no specific treatment for hand, foot and mouth disease, but there are steps you can take to ease your symptoms.

Read more information about treating hand, foot and mouth disease.

Reducing the risk of infection

Always wash your hands thoroughly with soap and hot water after going to the toilet or handling nappies, and make sure that the toilet is clean.

Avoiding children who have the virus may help to reduce the risk of catching the disease. However, a child with the virus will be infectious before they show any symptoms.

Is it related to foot and mouth disease?

No. Foot and mouth disease is a different condition, and usually only affects animals.

Further information:

Page last reviewed: 03/06/2013

Next review due: 02/06/2015