Contact with animals

Pregnant women should avoid close contact with animals that are giving birth, or have recently given birth. You may risk your own health and that of your unborn child by coming into close contact with sheep during lambing, or other farm animals that are giving birth as these animals can carry infections such as chlamydia, toxoplasma, listeria and Q fever.

Although the number of pregnancies affected by contact with infected animals is extremely small, it is very important that pregnant women understand the risks and take appropriate precautions. It should be noted these risks are not confined to the spring, and do not only apply to sheep, but also to cattle and goats that have recently given birth. All can carry similar infections.

To avoid the possible risk of infection, pregnant women should

  • not help to lamb or milk ewes, or to provide assistance with a cow that is calving or a nanny goat that is kidding
  • avoid contact with aborted or new-born lambs, calves or kids or with the afterbirth, birthing fluids or materials (e.g. bedding) contaminated by such birth products
  • avoid handling (including washing) clothing, boots or any materials that may have come into contact with animals that have recently given birth, their young or afterbirths. Potentially contaminated clothing will be safe to handle after being washed on a hot cycle
  • ensure contacts or partners who have attended lambing ewes or other animals giving birth take appropriate health and hygiene precautions, including the wearing of personal protective equipment and clothing, and adequate washing to remove any potential contamination.

Farmers and livestock keepers have a responsibility to minimise the risks to pregnant women, including members of their family, the public and professional staff visiting farms.

If you do become ill (experience fever or flu like symptoms) and are concerned that you could have acquired an infection from a farm environment, you should seek immediate medical advice.

Last Updated: 10 January 2017
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