Congenital Lyme

Most of us have learned that Lyme disease is spread by a tick bite. What is less known is that Lyme disease is also congenital, meaning it can cross the placenta, both infecting and causing harm to your unborn child. Though scientists have known Lyme is congenital since 1985, it took the CDC until 2020 to finally acknowledge this fact. CDC Fact Sheet: Pregnancy and Lyme disease.


What is Congenital Lyme

Lyme Borrelia and other tickborne infections may be transmitted from mother to child during pregnancy, known as Congenital Lyme. How often this happens and the impacts on the child’s health are not well-established; however, studies show significantly fewer adverse outcomes when the mother is treated with antibiotics during pregnancy as prescribed by a Lyme specialist.

We recommend for women of childbearing age who have been diagnosed with clusters of symptoms such as fibromyalgia, myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome, autoimmune conditions, unexplained inflammation, unexplained immune deficiencies, psychiatric conditions such as depression or anxiety, joint pain or muscle pain to carefully consider Lyme disease as part of the differential diagnosis, preferably under the guidance of a knowledgeable provider using a more reliable test

Pregnant and Infected

How do women feel when infected? Data on this has not been systematically obtained, but pediatric Lyme expert, Dr. Charles Ray Jones, interviewed 102 mothers who gave birth while infected with Lyme. He reports that 66% described their pregnancy as difficult, with the most common symptoms being severe and unremitting fatigue, brain fog, and cognitive problems.

It is also possible for a Lyme pregnancy to have a tragic outcome prior to birth. Pregnant women who are infected with Lyme disease may not carry to term. Instead, their pregnancy may result in stillbirth, miscarriage, and perinatal death, usually with cardiac abnormalities. Keep in mind: any organ can be affected.

If a mother is infected during pregnancy and her baby survives, the path forward may be hard. In his study of 102 live births to mothers with Lyme disease, Dr. Charles Ray Jones describes these newborns’ symptoms by frequency. The most common findings were neuropsychiatric. 80% of children had cognitive problems, learning disabilities, and mood swings; 72% had fatigue and lack of stamina; 9% had autism. Developing babies are not only at risk for contracting Lyme in utero but can also be infected through breast milk.

Why Does The Problem Persist?

Existing Lyme blood tests do not produce reliable results. For this reason, the doctor of a woman with Lyme symptoms who tests negative may disregard Lyme as a possibility. In addition, women with Lyme disease may be asymptomatic, or they may be sick, but misdiagnosed with other conditions.

Frequent misdiagnoses include Anxiety and/or Depression, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Fibromyalgia, Lupus, MS, Arthritis, Tendinitis, Endometriosis, and Neuropathies.

Common Lyme misdiagnoses: endometriosis, arthritis, neuropathies, multiple sclerosis, chronic fatigue syndrome, lupus, fibromyalgia, depression/anxiety.

Help Is Out There

Your best bet is to familiarize yourself with the range of Lyme, and Lyme coinfection, symptoms. If you have a history of Lyme symptoms without ever having been evaluated for Lyme, consult with a Lyme Literate Medical Doctor prior to conception. In addition, Mothers Against Lyme, an initiative of Project Lyme, host virtual meet-ups via Zoom. These meet-ups occur a couple of times a month and serve as a support group for patients. Sign up for our newsletter below to receive updates about these events.


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