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TB in pregnancy warning

Wednesday February 18th, 2009

Tuberculosis in pregnancy is becoming a growing hazard in Britain, experts warn today.

Dr Marian Knight of Oxford University, UK, and colleagues undertook a study which found that women from ethnic minorities are most commonly affected.

The number of women who die from tuberculosis during pregnancy is increasing in the UK, they warn in BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology. Its incidence in the UK is now higher than most western European countries, and it is classed as a "priority infectious disease".

The team identified cases of tuberculosis during every UK pregnancy in the 12 months to August 2006 - 33 cases. All of the women were non-white, leading the researchers to report that the problem "appears to be exclusively limited to ethnic minority women and almost exclusively to those born outside the UK".

Screening is not undertaken routinely, they warn. Dr Knight said: "This national study shows that for every woman who dies from tuberculosis in pregnancy, more than thirty have tuberculosis and survive.

"Importantly, there are differences in the pattern of tuberculosis in pregnant women compared to the non-pregnant population. Ethnic minority women, particularly those who have recently arrived in the UK, are most commonly affected."

"Women and their doctors and midwives should be aware that the symptoms of tuberculosis in pregnancy may be different, and consider the diagnosis, especially in recently arrived immigrant women, presenting with non-specific symptoms."

Journal editor Professor Philip Steer commented that the issue raises serious concerns about access to services and quality of care. "Proper screening remains essential to ensuring the timely diagnosis of tuberculosis during pregnancy, and to preventing further maternal deaths."

Knight, M. et al. Tuberculosis in pregnancy in the UK. BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Issue 4, February 2009.

Tags: Childbirth and Pregnancy | Nursing & Midwifery | UK News | Women’s Health & Gynaecology

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