Chagas disease can be transmitted in five different ways: by a vector (through the faeces of an insect), through vertical or congenital transmission (from mother to her child during pregnancy), by way of blood transfusions or organ transplants, by ingesting contaminated food or drinks, or because of laboratory accidents.
Having Chagas disease is not an obstacle to having a normal pregnancy, but a pregnant woman who has the disease should undergo specific tests and check-ups and should strictly follow her doctor's instructions because the parasitic infection can be transmitted to her child during pregnancy or delivery.
The risk of vertical transmission of Chagas disease from mother to child is estimated at between 3% and 5%. For this reason, newborn babies must be tested to find out whether they are infected. The baby's blood should be tested after birth and, if the results of this test are negative, at nine months of age. When an infant tests positive, drug treatment must be started promptly because a complete cure is possible when treatment is administered during the first year of life.
Mothers can also be treated, but they must wait until after they have stopped breastfeeding because the drugs used to treat Chagas disease are contraindicated in women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
Since Chagas disease is not transmitted from mother to child through breast milk, mothers who have the disease can safely breastfeed their babies.