Health & Safety Executive (HSE) "Advice for Women at Lambing Time"

lambing-3-newborn-lamb-and-ewePregnant 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. These include chlamydiosis (enzootic abortion of ewes or EAE), toxoplasmosis, Q fever and listeriosis, which are common causes of abortion in ewes. All of these agents are zoonotic (i.e. can be transmitted from animals to humans).

Although the number of reports of these infections and human miscarriages resulting from contact with sheep is extremely small, it is important that pregnant women are aware of the potential risks associated with close contact with sheep during lambing. 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 fluid contaminated materials (e.g. bedding);
avoid handling clothing, boots etc which have come into contact with ewes or lambs.

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/livestock environment.

Further information is also available from HSE. Information sheet AIS 2(rev) Common Zoonoses in Agriculture is available to download free of charge at There is also information on the DEFRA website.



dvd-setFor further health & welfare information, see 'The Breeding Flock', programme 3 in the DVD series 'Sheep on Your Smallholding'.