Pubic Lice (Crabs) and Pregnancy

Pubic lice are tiny wingless insects that infest pubic hair. Both men and women can get pubic lice. Pubic lice can spread by crawling from the pubic hair of one person to another person during sexual intercourse. People can also get crabs by coming in contact with infested clothing, towels, and bedding. Pubic lice survive by sucking small amounts of blood from the infected person. Pubic lice are also referred to as "crabs" because under the microscope they resemble minuscule crabs.

Symptoms and Signs of Crabs

Symptoms of pubic lice generally appear within 5 days of becoming infected. The most common symptom of crabs is intense itching, particularly in the groin area. Although the desire to itch may start early, it can take up to 2 to 3 weeks for the mature lice to be noticed. Another sign of lice can be the blue-grayish marks left from crab bites on the thighs and pubic area.

A person exposed to pubic lice may not notice the microscopic tan or grayish-white insects roaming in their pubic hair. To the naked eye crabs resemble small flakes of skin. The louse eggs, also known as nits, are a size of a pinhead, and they can't be removed without the use of a nit comb or a medicatied treatment.

Pregnant and Itchy: Do I have Crabs?

If you're experiencing intense itching in the groin area, particularly during pregnancy, consult your doctor or midwife. She can tell you if you have crabs by a quick examination of your pubic hair.

Do Pubic Lice Affect Pregnancy?

No serious effects or complications, to the baby or mother, has ever been reported. But if you're pregnant or breast-feeding you should notify your doctor or health care provider when go to get a treatment for your pubic lice. Since some medicated creams and shampoos used to eliminate crabs can potentially harm the fetus, and should be avoided. As well as, some medicated crab treatments should be avoided during breastfeeding.

In addition, during pregnancy it may be beneficial to you and your unborn baby if you get tested for other sexually transmitted diseases or infections (STDs of STIs), including HIV, as early as possible. Particularly, if you have a new partner during pregnancy or more than one partner.


Pubic lice can be treated with the use of prescription creams or shampoos and over-the-counter treatments. Consult your doctor before you use an over-the-counter treatment if you're pregnant or breastfeeding. Read the instructions carefully. You do not need to shave your pubic hair to get rid of the pubic lice.

Extra Precautions

To prevent becoming re-infested by crabs after treatment:

  • Machine wash and dry on a hot cycle setting all clothing, towels, bedding that may contain crabs
  • Notify everyone you had sex with recently, so they can be examined and treated

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