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Emerging Infectious Diseases in Pregnancy

Beigi, Richard H. MD, MSc

doi: 10.1097/AOG.0000000000001978
Contents: Clinical Expert Series
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Expert Discussion
Spanish Translation

It has been recognized for centuries that pregnant women have unique susceptibilities to many infectious diseases that predispose them to untoward outcomes compared with the general adult population. It is thought a combination of adaptive alterations in immunity to allow for the fetal allograft combined with changes in anatomy and physiology accompanying pregnancy underlie these susceptibilities. Emerging infectious diseases are defined as those whose incidence in humans has increased in the past two decades or threaten to increase in the near future. The past decade alone has witnessed many such outbreaks, each with its own unique implications for pregnant women and their unborn fetuses as well as lessons for the health care community regarding response and mitigation. Examples of such outbreaks include, but are not limited to, severe acute respiratory syndrome, the 2009 H1N1 pandemic influenza, Ebola virus, and, most recently, the Zika virus. Although each emerging pathogen has unique features requiring specific considerations, there are many underlying principles that are shared in the recognition, communication, and mitigation of such infectious outbreaks. Some of these key principles include disease-specific delineation of transmission dynamics, understanding of pathogen-specific effects on both mothers and fetuses, and advance planning and contemporaneous management that prioritize communication among public health experts, clinicians, and patients. The productive and effective working collaboration among the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine has been a key partnership in the successful communication and management of such outbreaks for women's health care providers and patients alike. Going forward, the knowledge gained over the past decade will undoubtedly continue to inform future responses and will serve to optimize the education and care given to pregnant women in the face of current and future emerging infectious disease outbreaks.

Pregnant women comprise a unique patient population who require specific attention during all phases of recognition and response to outbreaks of emerging infectious diseases.

Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology, & Reproductive Sciences, Magee-Womens Hospital of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Corresponding author: Richard H. Beigi, MD, MSc, Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology, & Reproductive Sciences, Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC, 300 Halket Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15213; email:

Financial Disclosure The author did not report any potential conflicts of interest.

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© 2017 by The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Published by Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. All rights reserved.