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. This 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. Let’s take an in-depth look at this bacteria 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.

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 Escherichia coli infection during 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 is found in urine 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.

If you think that you might have an E. coli infection, 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.

Also Read: Food Poisoning During Pregnancy

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