There are conflicting studies on the effects of Lyme disease upon pregnancy & the subject remains insufficiently studied. Individual case reports exist of adverse outcomes & gestational transmission. There is also supporting evidence that if Lyme is treated with antibiotics during pregnancy, the chance of complications is lower than in untreated mothers. Some larger serological & epidemiological studies that focused on treated pregnancies have demonstrated no statistical effect or causal connection to a particular adverse outcome. These larger studies support the idea that antibiotic treatment is essential to reducing the risks of Lyme disease to the fetus during pregnancy. Also note, Lyme disease & other tick-borne diseases could be transferred to a baby via the mother's infected breastmilk. The complications from untreated Lyme disease can include:
The summary of outcomes in documented cases of congenital Lyme disease is as follows:
A REVIEW OF THE EVIDENCE
The first reported case of congenital Lyme disease was documented in 1985.
Maternal-fetal Transmission of the Lyme Disease Spirochete, Borrelia Burgdorferi, Annals of Internal Medicine 103:67-69, 1985, P.A. Schlesinger et al
In 1986, a case was reported by Weber.
Weber, K, Bratzke, HJ, Neubert, U, Wilske, B, Duray, PH. Borrelia burgdorferi in a newborn despite oral penicillin for Lyme borreliosis during pregnancy. Pediatr Infect Dis J 1988; 7:286–289
Another case was reported in 1987 in Utah.
Stillbirth following maternal Lyme disease, MacDonald AB, Benach JL, Burgdorfer W., N Y State J Med. 1987 Nov;87(11):615-6
The medical report stated:
“Transmission of the spirochete Borrelia Burgdorferi from mother to fetus during the first trimester of pregnancy was followed by overwhelming spirochetosis in the fetus.”
Markowitz published a study of Lyme & pregnancy in 1986.
Markowitz LE, Steere AC, Benach JL, et al. Lyme disease during pregnancy. JAMA.(1986); 255(24), 3394-6
Williams & colleagues conducted a study in a Lyme-endemic area in New York of umbilical cord blood.
Williams, CL, Strobino, B, Weinstein, A, Spierling, P, Medici, F. Maternal Lyme disease and congenital malformations: a cord blood serosurvey in endemic and control areas. Paediatr Perinat Epidemiol 1995; 9:320–330
A glaring flaw in this study is that it only included live births. Since miscarriages, stillbirth & perinatal infant deaths were not included, the possibility of congenital defects possibly associated with Lyme & incompatible with life are not included!
Dr. Andrea Dlesk, of the Marshfield clinic in Wisconsin, studied 143 healthy pregnant women.
This study is flawed because there is no autopsy data on the 12 miscarriages. In the 11 seronegative mothers who miscarried, Lyme disease may have been present & may have caused defective fetuses.
In 1988, Carlomango studied 49 women who had either a 1st or 2nd trimester spontaneous abortion.
Carlomagno G; Luksa V; Candussi G; Rizzi GM; Trevisan G Acta Eur Fertil 1988 Sep-Oct;19(5):279-81 Dept. of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Trieste School of Medicine. Lyme Borrelia positive serology associated with spontaneous abortion in an endemic Italian area
In 1988, Nadal surveyed 1,416 women & their 1,434 infants at delivery for presence of antibodies to the Lyme disease spirochete.
Nadal, D, Hunziker, UA, Bucher, HU, Hitzig, WH, Duc, G. Infants born to mothers with antibodies against Borrelia burgdorferi at delivery. Eur J Pediatr 1989; 148:426–427
A major flaw in this research is the assumption that babies born with congenital Lyme disease are seropositive. This has been disproved by Dr. Alan MacDonald. In comparison, there is also seronegativity in babies with congenital syphilis.
In 1989, Dr. Alan MacDonald reported his findings in autopsies performed following perinatal deaths at Southampton Hospital between 1978 and 1988.
MacDonald, AB, Benach, JL, Burgdorfer, W. Stillbirth following maternal Lyme disease. NY State J Med 1987; 87:615–616
A special thank you to the Lyme Disease UK organization for summarizing the pregnancy research above.