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What are the risks of scarlet fever during pregnancy?

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

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

Scarlet fever symptoms

Scarlet fever is most common in children aged between 2 and 8, 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 rash that feels like sandpaper. On lighter skin it looks pink or red. On darker skin it can be more difficult to see, but you can still feel it. The rash usually starts a day or 2 after a sore throat and high temperature.

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

Scarlet fever in women who have recently given birth

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.

If you have recently given birth, it's important to wash your hands before and after going to the toilet or changing sanitary pads.

When to see a doctor or midwife

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

Find out more answers to questions about pregnancy

Further information:

Page last reviewed: 28 November 2019
Next review due: 28 November 2022