Press release

Advice to pregnant women during the lambing season

Pregnant women should avoid close contact with sheep during the lambing season, the Government advised today.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

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Updated guidance was published in January 2014.

The Department of Health, the Defra, and the Health and Safety Executive has advised that pregnant women who come into close contact with sheep during lambing may risk their own health, and that of their unborn child, from infections that can occur in some ewes.

Although these infections are uncommon, and the number of human pregnancies affected by contact with sheep is extremely small, it is important that pregnant women are aware of the potential risks and take appropriate precautions.

To avoid the possible risk of infection, pregnant women are advised that they should:

  • not help to lamb or milk ewes;
  • avoid contact with aborted or new-born lambs or with the afterbirth, birthing fluids or materials (e.g. bedding) contaminated by such birth products; and
  • avoid handling (including washing) clothing, boots or any materials  that may have come into contact with ewes, lambs or after ensure partners attending lambing ewes take appropriate health and hygiene precautions, including the wearing of personal protective equipment and adequate washing to remove any potential contamination.

Pregnant women should seek medical advice if they experience fever or influenza-like symptoms, or if concerned that they could have acquired infection from a farm environment.

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

Published 14 February 2011