Vibrio cholerae (Cholera)


The information provided below is for readers based in the United States of America. Readers outside of the United States of America should seek the information from local sources.

What is Vibrio cholerae?

Vibrio cholerae is a species of bacteria that can contaminate water and produce a toxin that causes serious disease with severe diarrhea and vomiting as the principal symptoms. The disease is known commonly as cholera.

How common is V. cholerae?

An estimated 1.3 – 4.0 million people develop cholera each year around the globe, resulting in 21,000 – 143,000 deaths. The disease comes in outbreaks, often due to contamination of water and food supplies. Mostly, this happens in developing countries, in locations where there is inadequate access to clean water and facilities for sanitation.

How is cholera diagnosed?

It is possible to detect a recent cholera infection directly by testing a person for the presence of certain bacteria, but in practice, the diagnosis is made clinically. Basically, this means that diagnosis is made based on the presence of severe diarrhea and the likely exposure of the person to contaminated water or food.  

Does cholera cause problems during pregnancy?

Cholera causes severe dehydration and also can cause imbalances in body pH and electrolytes. If untreated, these effects can be fatal.

Does cholera during pregnancy cause problems for the baby?

The dehydration and chemical imbalances occurring in a woman with cholera can cause spontaneous abortion (miscarriage) or stillbirth.

What to consider about taking medications when you are pregnant or breastfeeding:

  • The risks to yourself and your baby if you do not treat the cholera
  • The risks and benefits of each medication you use when you are pregnant
  • The risks and benefits of each medication you use when you are breastfeeding

What should I know about using medication to treat cholera during pregnancy?

Cholera is treated principally with support measures, particularly the replacement of fluids and electrolytes. Antibiotics have been proposed as a possible treatment, but have not been shown to be effective. Thus, the only medication that may possibly be needed is acetaminophen or paracetamol to treat fever should it develop.

Who should NOT stop taking medication for cholera during pregnancy?

As noted above, the treatment for cholera is supportive, consisting especially of the replacement of fluids.

What should I know about choosing a medication for my cholera during pregnancy?

Treatment is largely supportive, but you may find Pregistrys expert reports about individual medications here. Additional information can also be found in the sources listed at the end of this report.

What should I know about taking a medication for my cholera when I am breastfeeding?

If you are suffering from cholera you will be too ill to breastfeed, as milk production depends on the mother being adequately hydrated.

What alternative therapies besides medications can I use to treat my cholera during pregnancy?

As noted above, the treatment for cholera is supportive, consisting especially of the replacement of fluids. In the area of prevention, along with sanitation measures and improvement of access to clean water, a cholera vaccine is available. Since the vaccine is given by mouth and is not live, there is no risk to take it if you are pregnant and find yourself in a region with a cholera outbreak.

What can I do for myself and my baby when I have cholera during pregnancy?

Take care of yourself by taking rehydration therapy that is offered, and by taking fever medication if needed. Accept help through hospitalization.

Resources for cholera in pregnancy:

For more information about cholera during and after pregnancy, contact (800-994-9662 [TDD: 888-220-5446]) or check the following link:


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General information

It is very common for women to worry about having a miscarriage or giving birth to a child with a birth defect while they are pregnant. Many decisions that women make about their health during pregnancy are made with these concerns in mind.

For many women these concerns are very real. As many as 1 in 5 pregnancies end in a miscarriage, and 1 in 33 babies are born with a birth defect. These rates are considered the background population risk, which means they do not take into consideration anything about the health of the mom, the medications she is taking, or the family history of the mom or the baby’s dad. A number of different things can increase these risks, including taking certain medications during pregnancy.

It is known that most medications, including over-the-counter medications, taken during pregnancy do get passed on to the baby. Fortunately, most medicines are not harmful to the baby and can be safely taken during pregnancy. But there are some that are known to be harmful to a baby’s normal development and growth, especially when they are taken during certain times of the pregnancy. Because of this, it is important to talk with your doctor or midwife about any medications you are taking, ideally before you even try to get pregnant.

If a doctor other than the one caring for your pregnancy recommends that you start a new medicine while you are pregnant, it is important that you let them know you are pregnant.

If you do need to take a new medication while pregnant, it is important to discuss the possible risks the medicine may pose on your pregnancy with your doctor or midwife. They can help you understand the benefits and the risks of taking the medicine.

Ultimately, the decision to start, stop, or change medications during pregnancy is up to you to make, along with input from your doctor or midwife. If you do take medications during pregnancy, be sure to keep track of all the medications you are taking.

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