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Prenatal infections: how to protect you and your baby

Prenatal infections: how to protect you and your babyNo matter how to try to avoid it, catching infections can happen. And infections during pregnancy can be detrimental to the health of the mother and the child. This is why if you are pregnant or trying to be pregnant, you should know about infectious diseases that may affect you and your baby during pregnancy. Given below is information on some prenatal infections.

Group B Strep or GBS. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 1 out of 4 women carry the bacteria that cause GBS. The likelihood therefore that a pregnant woman is a carrier is quite high. Although they are usually benign and harmless to adults, they can present a danger to your baby. The CDC recommends that pregnant be tested for GBS on the 35 to 37 week of pregnancy. When the test is positive, the mother is given an antibiotic to prevent the bacteria from harming the baby. The antibiotic is most effective when given at least 4 hours before delivery. Be sure to inform your partner and your family that you are GBS positive in case of emergency delivery. Since the most commonly prescribed antibiotic is penicillin, be sure to inform your doctor if you are allergic to this antibiotic. Check out the CDC brocudre on GBS!

Cytomegalovirus or CMV. A pregnant woman infected with CMV can pass the virus to her fetus and cause birth defects or even death. Luckily, the chances of getting infected with CMV are quite low. The infection can be avoided through good hygiene practices. CMV is transmitted through contact with body fluids such as saliva and urine, especially in young children. Pregnant women who are in close contact with small children, be their own or those of others (e.g. job at a daycare or kindergarten) should carefully wash their hands after changing nappies and avoid sharing kids’ utensils. Check out CDC’s CMV brochure.

Listeriosis .Listeriosis is a food-borne infection caused by the bacteria Listeria. Unfortunately, pregnant women are about 20 times more likely than other healthy adults to get infected. The consequences can be quite serious – miscarriage, stillbirth and premature labor. Pregnant women are therefore advised to be very careful of the food they eat. Eat only thoroughly cooked meat and poultry products and pasteurized dairy product. For more tips on how to reduce the risk for listeriosis, check out CDC’s advice.

Chicken pox or varicella. Chicken pox is caused by the varicella virus and is common in children and rare in adults but the symptoms are much more serious in people 15 years old and older. The consequences of infection during pregnancy can present dangers to both mother and child. Chicken pox during pregnancy can cause fetal varicella syndrome or chicken pox infection of the newborn. Women who are planning to get pregnant and haven’t had chicken pox in their childhood should get themselves vaccinated. Women who are exposed to the varicella virus and who are not sure of their immunity should immediately contact their doctors. Check out UK’s National Health Services information guide on chicken pox and pregnancy.

Toxoplasmosis. This infection is caused by the parasite Toxoplasma gondii. The parasite is carried by cats but is also present in raw meat. Toxoplasmosis during pregnancy can adversely affect the unborn child, with effects such as damage to the eyes and the brain. To reduce the risk for toxoplasmosis, pregnant women are advised to take care, especially if there is a cat in the house. Good hygiene, especially hand washing should be observed at all times. Eating uncooked meat and unpasteurized dairy products should also be avoided. More information of toxoplasmosis can be found at Family Doctor.org.


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