Welcome to Fertile Friday!! For me it’s more like Lyme Friday as I’m at the annual ILADS conference in Fort Lauderdale – the International Lyme and Associated Disease Society. This is the annual get-together for all the Lyme docs to share experiences and knowledge. Since I’m here and thinking about it, I’m going to write and quick post about Lyme disease and pregnancy.
While it’s not commonly accepted in the medical community, Lyme disease can be passed from mother to baby in utero. I have worked with many families where Lyme disease was congenital. Some of my patients who are now in their 20’s suspect they’ve had Lyme all their lives, and other children who are younger than 10 exhibit the exact same symptoms their mother had. Of course, there is the remote possibility that all those kids were simply bitten at the same time their mother was, but for all the cases I’ve seen I’m going to call that quite unlikely.
Lyme disease is called The Great Imitator. It can mimic chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, auto-immune diseases of other kinds, Parkinson’s and many other diseases. Many women don’t get accurately diagnosed because of a lack of awareness in the medical community, and a denial of the occurrence of chronic Lyme disease. Also, the standard testing through regular labs is not accurate enough or sensitive enough so it misses a lot of diagnoses.
Lyme and pregnancy is tricky. You know how much I value gut health and the microbiome and all of that good stuff, however, I have to say, that research clearly shows that the way to minimize passing Lyme on to a baby is by the mother taking antibiotics during the pregnancy. Without antibiotics the chance is 50%; with one antibiotic it goes down to 20% and with two antibiotics it goes down to below 5%. I’ve seen many women have to make very tough decision regarding treating their own Lyme with antibiotics during pregnancy, but to pass on Lyme disease is a terrible burden for a mother too, so we have to weigh the risks versus the benefits. I’ll just say I have a few female patients on antibiotics right now. There are not enough herbs and essential oils that are safe to use in pregnancy that would contain the infection.
I still believe that breastfeeding confers benefit to the child, but antibiotics would need to be continued throughout. At least then the baby is also getting some of the mother’s antibodies to Lyme, and all the other good things that breastfeeding brings. The focus for the baby, other than testing cord blood for Lyme, is restoration of their own gut flora through neonatal and infant probiotics. Of course the mama is on probiotics the entire duration of treatment too.
It’s certainly not my favorite, but it does seem to be the safest option for babies at this time, from the standpoint of minimizing the transmission of Lyme disease. I know when I was planning to get pregnant with Valentina, I was going to take a Lyme test, not because I have any symptoms, but just because knowing what I know, I had to at least rule it out. By the time I got to take the test I was already pregnant, but I had decided within myself that had it been positive (I did a blood culture test which is pretty darned accurate), I would have gone on antibiotics. I was such a baby that day, I put the envelope with the results in my purse and wouldn’t open it for hours! I was terrified of it, but thankfully it was negative so we didn’t have to make those tough decisions.
Lyme disease is the fastest growing infectious disease in the United States, and possibly in many other countries too. It’s rampant in Australia, England, Europe, Russia and Japan, to name just a few. It can be severe and debilitating for both the mothers and children. There is also some connection between autism and Lyme disease, being that Lyme can cause a host of neurological problems in children. It’s a nasty illness and not one that anyone wishes upon their worst enemy, let alone their own children.
Sorry I don’t have something more cheery to write about today, but congenital Lyme is a reality so I believe it’s important to be aware and proactive. I’ve seen too many kids impacted and not have the normal and healthy childhood that they deserve.