Screening for infectious diseases

During your pregnancy you'll be offered a test for infections that can affect you and your baby, such as hepatitis B, syphilis and HIV.

A blood test is used to screen for these conditions.

Why will I be screened for these conditions?

We screen for these conditions because simple treatments can reduce the risks to you and your baby.

Hepatitis B

Without immunisation, most babies born to mothers who are carrying hepatitis B will become infected themselves. These babies are at risk of developing serious liver disease as they grow older.

Women carrying hepatitis B may have no signs of infection. Without a test, you wouldn't know if you were infected.

If the test shows that you're carrying hepatitis B, you'll be given specialist treatment. A course of immunisation from birth can usually prevent infection in babies born to mothers carrying Hepatitis B.

More about hepatitis B

More about the hepatitis B vaccine

Syphilis

You'll be tested for syphilis because if it isn't treated it can damage the health of you and your baby.

Syphilis:

  • is passed on through having sex
  • can be treated quickly and simply with antibiotics

If the test shows you might have syphilis, you'll be offered a second test to confirm the results.

Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)

HIV is the virus that causes acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). Over time, HIV damages the immune system and destroys the body’s defences against infection and disease.

Infected women can pass HIV to their babies during pregnancy, childbirth and also through breastfeeding.

It can take years for HIV to do enough damage for someone to become ill. Women with HIV won't know they're infected unless they have a test.

If the test shows you might have HIV, you'll be offered a second test to confirm the results. If the test shows that you are HIV positive, specialists will offer you:

  • treatment, including medication that will greatly reduce the chance of you passing HIV infection to your baby
  • advice about the best type of delivery and methods of feeding your baby

Medication to improve your own health can also be started if required.

More about HIV

HIV and insurance policies

Having a blood test for HIV does not affect your current or future life insurance policies but if a health condition is found, it could affect your insurance.

You might wish to check any policies you have for further details. It’s still recommended that you take the test.

Rash in pregnancy

Any illness where you have a fever and a rash may be due to you having an infectious disease which could harm your unborn baby.

If you have a rash or come in contact with someone with a rash during your pregnancy:

  • let your midwife, GP or obstetrician know immediately
  • avoid any antenatal clinic, maternity setting or other pregnant women until you've been assessed

You may be offered tests to find out if you've been infected. The health professional that assesses you will need to know:

  • how many weeks pregnant you are
  • when you had contact with the person with the rash illness
  • the date you first developed the rash
  • a description of the rash (is it a raised, bumpy rash or blisters filled with fluid?)
  • what infections you've had in the past, for example chickenpox or measles
  • what vaccinations you've previously had

Get advice about your rash symptoms

Test results

Your test results will usually be available at your next clinic visit.

If any health issues are found, you'll be contacted as soon as possible and be given advice and care.

Sometimes tests are routinely repeated later in pregnancy. Occasionally technical problems can occur and you will be asked to have another sample taken.