Anthrax in Pregnancy: Protecting Mother and Baby

Dana M. Meaney Delman, MD, MPH


May 27, 2014

Editorial Collaboration

Medscape &

In This Article

Editor's Note: The guidance for the appropriate response to anthrax exposure and inhalation anthrax infection in adults has just been updated and is summarized here. Expanded guidance is also available on the prevention and management of anthrax exposure and inhalation anthrax in adults and for anthrax in children.

Anthrax in Pregnant and Postpartum Women

Anthrax continues to be a high-priority threat agent and a major focus of national emergency-preparedness planning. Little is known about the effects of anthrax on pregnant, postpartum, and lactating women; only 20 known cases have been reported worldwide. Yet, we do know that infectious diseases in general have the potential to manifest in these women differently from in nonpregnant adults. In historic cases, anthrax has been associated with maternal and fetal mortality, and evidence of anthrax has been demonstrated in fetal tissues. What remains truly unknown is whether pregnant and postpartum women are more susceptible to Bacillus anthracis infection.

Given the substantial morbidity and mortality of anthrax, the physiologic changes present in pregnant and postpartum women, and the complexities of balancing maternal and fetal risks, clinicians may face unique challenges in preventing, diagnosing, and treating anthrax in these women. These recommendations provide health professionals with the most current knowledge to inform the care of obstetrical populations during a public health emergency involving anthrax.