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Why should pregnant women avoid sheep during the lambing season?

Some infections can be passed from sheep and other animals to humans.

If a pregnant woman becomes infected, it could harm her and her unborn baby's health.

If you're pregnant or think you might be pregnant, avoid close contact with sheep during the lambing season, which runs from January to April.

What are the risks for pregnant women?

Infections that can affect female sheep (ewes) and that could be passed to pregnant women include:

The risks are low

These infections are uncommon in sheep and very rare in humans.

The number of human pregnancies affected by contact with sheep is extremely small.

Although the risks are low, pregnant women should still avoid close contact with sheep during lambing.

Advice for pregnant women

To avoid the risk of infection, if you're pregnant or think you might be pregnant:

  • do not help deliver lambs (or calves or kids)
  • do not milk ewes
  • avoid contact with aborted (miscarried) or newborn lambs and with the afterbirth, birthing fluids or contaminated materials, such as bedding
  • ensure your partner washes thoroughly after contact with ewes that are lambing
  • clothing worn during lambing should be washed separately from other washing

Farmers are responsible for minimising the risk to pregnant women and members of their family, the public and professional staff who visit their farms.

When to get medical advice

Seek medical advice if you're pregnant and:

  • you have a high temperature or flu-like symptoms
  • you think you may have got an infection from a farm environment

Are there risks from other animals?

Cows and goats that have recently given birth can also carry similar infections.

Pregnant women should also be aware that the risk is present at other times of the year, not just during the lambing season.

Read the answers to more questions about pregnancy.

Further information

Page last reviewed: 18 September 2018
Next review due: 18 September 2021