What are the risks of scarlet fever during pregnancy?

There's no evidence that catching scarlet fever during your pregnancy will put your baby at risk. However, if you are infected when you give birth, there is a risk your baby may also become infected.

Pregnant women who have been diagnosed with scarlet fever will be treated with antibiotics, which are safe to take in pregnancy and labour.

Scarlet fever

Scarlet fever is most common in children aged between two and eight, although anyone can catch it. It's caused by bacteria from the streptococcus (strep) group, which is the same group of bacteria that causes sore throats.

Scarlet fever has a distinctive pink-red rash, which usually develops after a sore throat (strep throat) or skin infection (impetigo) caused by strep bacteria. Read more about the symptoms of scarlet fever.

Generally, scarlet fever is much less common in the UK than it used to be because strep infections can be treated with antibiotics.

In rare circumstances, strep bacteria can cause severe and life-threatening infections in women who have recently given birth. This happens when the bacteria that cause a sore throat are spread to the genital area.

It's important that women who have recently given birth wash their hands before and after going to the toilet or changing sanitary pads.  

Avoiding scarlet fever

Scarlet fever is very infectious and spread by sneezing, coughing or breathing out. It can also be caught from drinking glasses, plates or utensils.

To avoid getting scarlet fever it's best to avoid contact with children who have the infection.

What if I get a rash during pregnancy?

If you develop a rash when you're pregnant, get advice from your GP or midwife straight away so they can diagnose its cause.

Read the answers to more questions about pregnancy.

Further information:

Page last reviewed: 30/11/2016

Next review due: 30/11/2019