Tetanus in pregnancy

Jeanne S. Sheffield, Susan M. Ramin

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Tetanus remains a leading cause of maternal and neonatal morbidity and mortality in developing countries. It is caused by the release of two toxins produced by Clostridium tetani, a noninvasive gram-positive anaerobic bacillus. Tetanospasmin is taken up by the neuronal end plates and prevents neurotransmitter release at the synaptic junction. This leads to spasm and is irreversible. Recovery requires the formation of new neurons and may take months. Generalized muscle spasm, respiratory compromise, and autonomic dysfunction are all common clinical manifestations. Diagnosis is based mainly on history and clinical examination. The management of the pregnant woman is similar to the nonpregnant individual. The main objectives are prompt prevention of further toxin absorption, wound debridement, antibiotic therapy, and aggressive supportive care. Primary and secondary prevention protocols are important worldwide because tetanus is a preventable disease. The tetanus toxoid vaccine can be given in pregnancy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)173-182
Number of pages10
JournalAmerican Journal of Perinatology
Issue number4
StatePublished - May 2004


  • Clostridium tetani
  • Pregnancy
  • Tetanus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology


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