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What are the Risks of Epstein-Barr in Pregnancy?

Mary McMahon
Updated: May 17, 2024

People who contract Epstein-Barr in pregnancy or who experience a reactivation of the virus can be at risk for a preterm birth or a baby with lower birth weight. Of more concern is the potential for dehydration caused by feeling unwell, making it important for pregnant patients to drink plenty of fluids. Infection with this virus is very common and is not a major cause for worry during pregnancy, although there may be specific issues with individual patients that lead an obstetrician to take some additional steps to protect patient and child.

This virus is part of the herpesvirus family. Many people are exposed to Epstein-Barr at a very young age and the virus establishes a dormant infection in the body. Some patients develop mononucleosis as a result of the infection, and it is also possible for malignancies like leukemias to appear over time. For the most part, patients usually experience fever and mild swelling and do not require any special treatments beyond rest and proper hydration.

With pregnant patients, most have already been exposed and should not develop a new infection, unless they are very young. It is possible for the virus to reactivate during pregnancy, where the dormant infection reemerges in response to stress or immune suppression. In these patients, Epstein-Barr in pregnancy can cause fever, swelling of the glands, and general discomfort. Usually, rest and fluids are recommended to keep the patient hydrated and reduce strain on the body.

Some studies on Epstein-Barr in pregnancy have found a link between the virus and shorter gestation, causing babies to be born slightly earlier than expected. This can expose the infant to some health risks, among them a low birth weight. Other studies have not found this connection and there is some debate between medical authorities on the risks of Epstein-Barr in pregnancy. Generally, all recommend keeping an eye on the health of pregnant patients to identify complications as early as possible.

Issues like miscarriages and birth defects are not a known risk for people with Epstein-Barr in pregnancy. It is possible for these complications of pregnancy to arise independently in response to other factors. People curious about the origins of medical issues associated with pregnancy can request testing to learn more about why they happened and how they can be avoided in the future, if possible. Often, adverse events in pregnancy are spontaneous and could not have been prevented with any particular precautions or steps on the mother's part.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseGeek researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By sunnySkys — On Aug 03, 2011

@SZapper - Dehydration during pregnancy is definitely not desirable. I'm glad your friend is OK though!

I remember my mom telling me that at one point she was really concerned about getting developing Epstein-Barr when she was pregnant. When she was in high school, my mom came down with a pretty bad case of mono. Like the article said, the virus can reactivate during pregnancy.

My mom is a big worrier, but luckily this time her worries were unfounded! She didn't develop Epstein-Barr during either of her two pregnancies.

By SZapper — On Aug 02, 2011

A friend of mine had Epstein-Barr during her last pregnancy. Dehydration was the biggest problem for her-she actually ended up having to get fluids in an IV at the hospital.

And, come to think of it, her baby was born earlier. I don't think she put two and two together that it was caused by the Epstein-Barr virus, nor did her doctor mention it to her. Interesting!

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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