What are the risks of MRSA during pregnancy?

MRSA does not usually harm healthy people, including pregnant women, babies and children.

Little research has been done on the effects of MRSA during pregnancy. However, there is no evidence that carrying MRSA during pregnancy can cause miscarriage or harm the unborn baby.

What does 'carrying MRSA' mean?

Some people carry MRSA bacteria on their skin or in their nose without developing an MRSA infection. They may not know that they're carrying MRSA because they have no symptoms and it doesn't harm them. This is known as being colonised.

MRSA infection and screening

MRSA infection happens when the bacteria get into the body through a break in the skin. It's most common in people in hospital.

To check if they're carrying MRSA, patients going into hospital for a planned operation are offered screening with a simple swab test. If the test is positive, treatment will be offered. Healthcare professionals may refer to this as suppression or decolonisation treatment.

MRSA screening is also carried out for emergency admissions to hospital.

Screening for MRSA during pregnancy

Pregnant women are not routinely screened for MRSA as part of their antenatal care. However, screening may be offered in some circumstances. For example, this may be offered if the woman is booked in for an elective caesarean section or she is deemed a high-risk maternity case. This includes when a woman:

  • has previously been infected with MRSA
  • has any wounds
  • has a urinary catheter

Whether screening is offered may vary, depending on the hospital's policy. Babies are not routinely screened for MRSA. However, if your baby is admitted to a neonatal unit, they will be screened for MRSA.

Treating MRSA colonisation

If screening shows that you're carrying MRSA, you will be offered treatment to suppress (reduce) or get rid of the bacteria.

Read frequently asked questions about screening, including treatment for people who are carrying MRSA.

Babies who are carrying MRSA can also be treated, although some will not need treatment.

Treating MRSA infection

If a pregnant woman becomes infected with MRSA, her symptoms can be treated with antibiotics.

It's possible for a mother to pass MRSA to her baby during a normal delivery (vaginal birth). MRSA can also be passed on from other babies in the hospital if they're carrying it.

If a baby develops an MRSA infection, it can be treated. Serious infections in babies caused by MRSA are rare.

Getting advice

If you're pregnant and have any concerns about MRSA, you can get advice from your midwife or GP.

Read the answers to more questions about pregnancy.

Further information:

MRSA

Find out how MRSA is caught, what happens when you have it, and how hospital staff and visitors can help prevent infection.

Media last reviewed: 16/05/2013

Next review due: 16/05/2015

Page last reviewed: 07/10/2013

Next review due: 06/10/2015