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 111.

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, such as in hospitals and care homes. Older people are most at risk from infection and most cases (80%) affect people over 65, with most occurring in those aged 75 years and older.

C. diff infections during pregnancy are rare as it normally doesn’t cause any problems in healthy people. A few additional C. diff infections started to be reported several years ago when a particular type of C. diff, known as 027, became common. The 027 type of C. diff is now uncommon in the UK.

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

Read the answers to more questions about pregnancy.

Further information:

 

C difficile

The symptoms of C difficile range from mild to very severe diarrhoea. Get expert advice on how to avoid it, how it spreads and treatments that can control the disease.

Media last reviewed: 14/05/2013

Next review due: 14/05/2015

Page last reviewed: 04/12/2013

Next review due: 03/12/2015