E. Coli (Escherichia Coli) in Pregnancy: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

E. Coli (Escherichia Coli) in Pregnancy

Medically Reviewed By
Dr. Sabiha Anjum (Gynecologist/Obstetrician)
View more Gynecologist/Obstetrician Our Panel of Experts

Escherichia coli is a type of bacteria that commonly causes infections in children and adults. E. coli in pregnancy infection can usually pass within a week, but pregnant women may be more susceptible to its symptoms. It is important to take care of your personal hygiene, as well as the cleanliness of your surroundings. 

This article delves into the risks associated withe E. coli during pregnancy first, second and third trimester, explores potential consequences for both mother and baby and provides crucial guidance on prevention and seeking prompt medical care. Understanding this bacterium’s impact on pregnancy is essential for safeguarding maternal and fetal well-being throughout this critical period.

Let’s take an in-depth look at E. coli and pregnancy and how it can affect pregnancy.

What Is an Escherichia coli Infection?

E. coli, or Escherichia coli, is a bacterium that can be found naturally in your vagina and gut. It is generally harmless, but a problem will arise if the bacterium makes its way to places such as your kidneys or stomach. There are various strains of E. coli bacteria, of which a few of them are known to be dangerous. These strains of E. coli may lead to infections and other issues during pregnancy.

Is It Normal to Have E. coli Infection in Pregnancy?

While E. coli infections during pregnancy are relatively rare, they can occur. Pregnancy alters a woman’s immune system, potentially making her more susceptible. The presence of E. coli can lead to urinary tract infections, which are more common in pregnant women. Additionally, if contaminated food or water is consumed, it can cause gastrointestinal issues. However, any E. coli infection should be promptly addressed as it can lead to complications for both mother and baby. Seeking immediate medical attention and adhering to preventive measures, such as practising good hygiene and safe food handling, are crucial during pregnancy to mitigate any potential risks.

What Are the Sources of E. coli?

While some types of E. coli are naturally present in your body, there are others that enter your body through different mediums. Some of the sources of E. coli are listed below:

  • Unwashed vegetables and fruits
  • Uncooked meat
  • Human or animal faeces
  • Non-purified or contaminated tap water, especially if it comes in contact with agricultural or sewage water
  • Water in swimming pools which has not been cleaned or treated with chlorine
  • Unpasteurised fruit juices
  • Unpasteurised milk

E. coli can also be transferred by touch. If an individual having E. coli bacteria on their hand touches you, there is a strong likelihood of you getting infected.

Symptoms of E. coli Infection During Pregnancy

Some of the symptoms of E. coli in pregnancy are:

1. Nausea

It is the most common symptom of E. coli infection. It manifests as a groggy feeling in the stomach, or a bad feeling in the back of the throat.

2. Abdominal Cramps

Another symptom is pain perceived in the abdominal region.

3. Diarrhoea

is a state in which faecal matter is frequently discharged in a liquid state. You may also have mild watery stools (diarrhoea) or severe, blood-spotted ones.

4. Vomiting

This is another symptom. You might feel nauseous before vomiting.


5. Fatigue

You can also feel fatigued due to the other symptoms of the infection, or because your body is exerting energy to fight the illness.

6. Dehydration

Dehydration can be caused by diarrhoea or vomiting due to the illness.

7. Gas

Infection caused by the E. coli bacteria affects your gastrointestinal tract, thus producing more gas.

8. Blood in Urine

In rare cases, blood may appear in your urine if the infection is not diagnosed on time, or if it turns out that you have an undiagnosed urinary tract infection as well.

9. Fever

The infection may also cause you to have a high fever. Pregnant women should be extra careful if they run a fever. In general practice, a person is not usually considered to have a fever until the body temperature rises above 100.4 F.


10. Pale Skin

This can be caused by dehydration, fatigue, or not enough nutrition being taken during the illness. A doctor will be able to recommend a gut-friendly diet for you to have, if you have an E. coli infection.

11. Skin Bruising

In some cases, you may notice dark-coloured splotches on your skin.

Does an E. coli Infection Affect Pregnancy?

E. coli infection in a pregnant woman can affect the pregnancy by increasing various complications:

  • E. coli can cause diarrhoea, which results in loss of body fluids, leading to dehydration. This can lead to issues like low amniotic fluid.
  • In rare cases, the pregnant woman may start to bleed heavily. In case of a severe infection, there might be a chance of preterm rupture of membranes, miscarriage, premature delivery, or stillbirth.
  • It is also reported that E. coli infection can cause low birth weight.

How to Treat an E. coli Infection During Pregnancy

Pregnant women can be prescribed a course of antibiotics to treat an E. coli infection. Make sure to check with your doctor that the antibiotics are safe for the foetus. Some antibiotics that can be taken for treating E. coli infection are Nitrofurantoin, and Cephalosporins if the doctor says it’s needed.

Most healthy people recover from E. coli within a few days without taking any kind of medication.

Note: You should take antibiotics only after getting a prescription from a medical professional.

How Can You Prevent an E. coli Infection During Your Pregnancy?

To avoid E. coli bacterial infection during your pregnancy, you can take the following precautions:

  • Make sure you clean your hands with a disinfectant after touching raw meat.
  • Always wash your hands with soap and water after using or cleaning the toilet, handling dirty linens and towels, changing diapers, and touching animals. This is because E. coli in urine in pregnancy and faecal matter.
  • Cook meat thoroughly, till it is well done.
  • Clean any surface that touches raw meat with bleach or disinfectant.
  • Drink only pasteurised milk and juice.
  • Soak or wash all fruits and vegetables in a container of salted water before consuming.
  • You should avoid swimming, especially in public pools, as the water may be contaminated.


1. Can an Infant Born With E.coil?

While E. coli is naturally present in every individual, only a fraction of newborns might contract an E. coli infection. This transmission can occur as they traverse the birth canal during vaginal delivery or through exposure in hospital or home settings. Infants manifesting symptoms of E. coli-related illness might have a less robust immune system at birth, rendering them more susceptible to falling ill.

2. Can E. coli Lead to Stillbirth?

A severe and unaddressed E. coli infection can potentially result in stillbirth. It’s important to note that not every instance of E. coli infection will lead to this outcome.

If you think that you might have an Escherichia coli while pregnant, consult your health care provider at the earliest. It can be easily treated if diagnosed on time. One of the best ways to prevent contracting an E. coli infection is to ensure that you have clean surroundings, good personal hygiene, and eat well-cooked meals.


1. Escherichia coli (E. coli); mothertobaby.org; https://mothertobaby.org/fact-sheets/e-coli-pregnancy/

2. Chorioamnionitis; my.clevelandclinic.org; https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/12309-chorioamnionitis

3. Urinary Tract Infections in Pregnant Individuals; acog.org; https://www.acog.org/clinical/clinical-guidance/clinical-consensus/articles/2023/08/urinary-tract-infections-in-pregnant-individuals

4. Urinary Tract and Kidney Infections in Pregnancy; nationwidechildrens.org; https://www.nationwidechildrens.org/conditions/health-library/urinary-tract-and-kidney-infections-in-pregnancy

5. E. coli and Food Safety; CDC; https://www.cdc.gov/foodsafety/communication/ecoli-and-food-safety.html

6. E. coli Infection; my.clevelandclinic.org; https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/16638-e-coli-infection

7. Escherichia coli (E. coli); fda.gov; https://www.fda.gov/food/foodborne-pathogens/escherichia-coli-e-coli

8. E. coli; mayoclinic.org; https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/e-coli/symptoms-causes/syc-20372058

9. E. coli (Escherichia coli); CDC; https://www.cdc.gov/ecoli/ecoli-prevention.html

Also Read: 

Sepsis in Pregnancy
Food Poisoning During Pregnancy
Urinary Incontinence while Pregnant
Causes of Kidney Infection (Pyelonephritis) during Pregnant

Previous article «
Next article »