Protect your baby during pregnancy

Vaccinate yourself during pregnancy

Carbon monoxide screening

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colourless, odourless and tasteless poisonous gas. You can't see it or smell it. It is present in cigarette smoke(not e cigarettes), but also in faulty gas boilers and car exhaust fumes.

How does carbon monoxide affect my baby?

It replaces some of the oxygen carried by your red blood cells, which means less oxygen getting to your baby. It is dangerous because it slows your baby’s growth and development, and increases the risk of miscarriage,stillbirth and sudden infant death.

Carbon monoxide breath testing

All women are offered screening for carbon monoxide:

  • You blow into a hand-held machine, called a CO monitor, which measures the level of CO in your body.
  • The more CO you have inhaled, the higher your CO reading will be.

This test can also show whether you’re inhaling harmful amounts of second hand smoke (passive smoking). If your CO reading is above 4ppm you will receive advice from your midwife on stop smoking services or advised to contact the Health and Safety Executive gas safety line.

Is there carbon monoxide in electronic cigarettes?

No. Electronic cigarettes do not contain carbon monoxide or many of the other harmful gases found in cigarettes. If you are using electronic cigarettes only you will not have a higher reading in a CO test.

Protecting yourself against infections that can be transmitted to your baby

If you are infected with cytomegalovirus (CMV), toxoplasmosis or genital herpes during pregnancy, there is a chance that the infection might be transferred to your baby. Below are some simple ways to help protect yourself and your baby against these infections:

Cytomegalovirus CMV

Contracting cytomegalovirus (CMV) infection during pregnancy poses a risk to the developing baby, as some of these babies are born with permanent health problems. CMV is found in bodily fluids, including urine, saliva, blood, mucus and tears. It is spread through close contact with bodily fluids. The main way pregnant women catch CMV is from small children’s saliva and urine. So women who work with children, or who have a family already, need to be especially careful during pregnancy. For information about how to minimise this risk, click here.


The parasite that causes toxoplasmosis is found in the poo of infected cats and in infected meat. You can also catch it from soil that has been contaminated by cat poo.If it spreads to your baby it can cause serious complications including miscarriage, especially if you get infected early in pregnancy. For more information about toxoplasmosis, click here.

Genital herpes

Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted infection.If you have genital herpes during pregnancy, there's a risk your baby could develop a serious illness called neonatal herpes; please alert your GP or midwife. Women whose first infection with herpes occurred before pregnancy can usually expect to have a healthy baby and a vaginal delivery because they will transfer protective antibodies to their baby during the pregnancy (unless the baby is born extremely prematurely). For more information about genital herpes, click here and for more information about neonatal herpes, click here.

Do’s and don’t for avoiding infections that can affect your baby during pregnancy:


  • wash your hands before preparing food and eating
  • wash hands, knives and chopping boards thoroughly after preparing raw meat
  • wash fruit and vegetables thoroughly to get rid of any traces of soil
  • wear gloves while gardening
  • wear gloves while emptying cat litter trays and empty them every day
  • wash your hands after touching a child’s urine or saliva. Wash your hands well for 15-20 seconds using soap and water.


  • avoid eating raw or undercooked meat, or cured meats like salami or Parma ham
  • avoid drinking unpasteurised goat's milk or any products made from it
  • do not touch or handle pregnant sheep or lambs
  • do not put things in your mouth that have been in your child mouth. Try not to share food, cups or cutlery, or put your child’s dummy in your mouth
  • avoid getting saliva from a baby/young child in your mouth. Try giving your child a kiss on the head instead of the on the lips.
  • avoid vaginal, anal or oral sex if you or your partner have herpes blisters or sores, or a tingle or itch that means an outbreak is coming.
  • avoid letting your baby be kissed by anyone who has an active cold sore

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