Ready Steady Baby


How to prevent illness in pregnancy

If you already have young children, you’ll know how hard it can be to keep things clean.

When you’re pregnant, it’s important to be aware of some of the things you can do to reduce the risk of infection for you and your baby.

Stop germs spreading

To protect your baby from germs:

  • try not to put things in your mouth that have been in your child’s, such as food, cups and dummies
  • wash your hands whenever things get messy, such as after you’ve changed a nappy or wiped a nose
  • wash your hands after you’ve touched the bin or pets
  • kiss your children on the head and face instead of on their lips
  • wash anything that may have been in contact with bodily fluids, such as urine or vomit

How to prevent food poisoning

The bacteria that cause food poisoning live in many places. You can help keep germs at bay by:

  • washing your hands before preparing food and before eating
  • cleaning kitchen work surfaces and utensils

How to store, prepare and cook food safely

Foods to avoid

There are some foods to avoid when you’re pregnant as they might make you ill or harm your baby.

More about foods to avoid in pregnancy

Pets and animals

Many animals including your pets carry infections and bacteria. These can be passed to you, and sometimes to your baby.

Animals won’t always look unwell, so it’s not easy to tell if they have an infection.

Infections spread by animals can cause severe issues when you’re pregnant.

How to reduce the risk of infection

If you make sure you’re as safe as you can be, you can help to reduce your chances of infection.

If you’ve been in contact with animals or their surroundings, wash your hands with soap and warm running water before you eat or prepare food.

You should also keep pet food away from your food and from the places where you prepare food.

Clean cages, bedding and litter trays

Ask someone to clean your pets’ cages, litter trays or bedding. If that’s not possible use disposable gloves and remember to wash your hands well afterwards.

You should clean cages and litter trays in a well-ventilated room with the windows open and lots of air going through. Your cat’s litter tray should be cleaned daily using hot water.

Always wear gloves if you’re gardening in case the soil has had animal faeces in it. When finished, wash your hands and gloves thoroughly.

Farm animals

If you come into close contact with animals when they’re giving birth, such as sheep, cows and goats, you could pick up an infection.

If you’re around animals when they’re giving birth, or you work on a farm:

  • don’t milk ewes, or help with a cow, ewe or goat giving birth
  • don’t touch aborted or newborn calves, lambs, or kids, the afterbirths, birthing fluids or anything these have been in contact with
  • don’t touch or wash clothing, boots or anything which may have been around animals recently giving birth, their young or afterbirths – they’re are okay to touch after they’ve been washed on a hot cycle
  • make sure that anyone around you wears protective equipment and clothes and washes well afterwards if they’ve been with animals giving birth

Rashes and fevers

Any illness where you have a fever and a rash could be an infectious disease which might harm your baby.

If you get a rash or spend time with someone who has one, you should tell your midwife, GP or obstetrician straight away.

They will ask you about:

  • your health
  • the rash
  • who you’ve had contact with
  • any immunisations and infectious diseases you’ve had

You may be offered tests to find out if you have been infected.

If possible, stay away from other pregnant women and your antenatal clinic until you have been checked over.

Further information, other languages and alternative formats

Translations and alternative formats of this information are available from Public Health Scotland.

If you need a different language or format, please contact

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