Pregnant women and new mothers are 70 times more likely to get tuberculosis
GPs warned: Pregnant women are at much higher risk of tuberculosis (posed by a model)
Pregnant women are at much higher risk of tuberculosis, researchers claim.
A major study has found that expectant mothers or those who have given birth within the past six months are 69 per cent more likely to get the illness.
The researchers from the Health Protection Agency warned midwives and GPs to look out for the symptoms of TB because it can be fatal if not treated.
Their study – published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine – examined the medical records of more than 190,000 women over 12 years.
They found the rate of TB among pregnant women or those who had given birth within the past six months was 15.4 per 100,000 compared with 9.1 per 100,000 among the general population.
They believe pregnancy may weaken a woman’s immune system, making her more susceptible to respiratory illnesses.
Professor Ibrahim Abubakar, head of TB surveillance at the HPA and a specialist in infectious diseases at the University of East Anglia, said: “This study clearly shows that future guidance to healthcare workers, especially midwives and health visitors, should take into account that the risk of TB may be increased during pregnancy or shortly after giving birth.
‘Those looking after pregnant and post-natal women should be encouraged to look out for the signs and symptoms of the disease, particularly among women in high risk groups such as immigrants from countries with a high burden of TB, as early diagnosis and appropriate treatment is essential. TB is a preventable and treatable condition but, if left untreated, can be life threatening.”
They should be particularly vigilant among women in high risk groups such as immigrants from countries with a high burden of TB, he said.
According to the latest figures from the HPA, 8,483 cases of TB were diagnosed last year.
Experts suspect one reason the rates have recently increased is because of the higher numbers of immigrants coming to the UK from parts of Africa and Asia, where it is very widespread.
The illness is caused by bacteria that infect the lungs. Symptoms include cough, fever, tiredness, lack of appetite and weight loss.