Bilateral peripheral facial paralysis during pregnancy: a presentation of acute HIV seroconversion

BMJ Case Rep. 2021 May 25;14(5):e242150. doi: 10.1136/bcr-2021-242150.


A G7P5A1 woman in her 40s presented to the emergency department at 37 weeks 3 days' estimated gestational age (EGA) with headache, lip tingling and several days of difficulty speaking. Physical examination demonstrated bilateral facial weakness in a peripheral distribution, as well as decreased corneal reflexes and cervical lymphadenopathy. Routine fourth generation HIV screening had previously been negative at 14 and 28 weeks' EGA. Brain MRI was unremarkable, and lumbar puncture disclosed a low-grade, mononuclear cerebrospinal fluid pleocytosis; the patient was treated supportively. She returned for induction of labour at 39 weeks, at which time HIV infection was unexpectedly diagnosed. While unilateral idiopathic peripheral facial paralysis is associated with the third trimester of pregnancy and the early postpartum period, bilateral facial paralysis is rare and should prompt work-up for an underlying systemic cause, such as HIV infection.

Keywords: HIV / AIDS; cranial nerves; infection (neurology); pregnancy.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Bell Palsy*
  • Facial Paralysis* / etiology
  • Female
  • HIV Infections* / complications
  • HIV Seropositivity* / complications
  • Headache
  • Humans
  • Pregnancy