Infections During Pregnancy
Infections during pregnancy may lead to various complications and may affect the health of the pregnant woman as well as the baby in her womb. These complications and effects may range from mild to severe and may even be fatal in both or either of the cases. There are lists of micro-organisms which pose a threat to pregnancy, by causing infection.
Chicken pox or Varicella is a viral illness that mainly affects the children with symptoms including itchy rash and fever. Around 85% to 95% of pregnant women are immune to the infection. However, 1 out of 2000 pregnant woman develops the chicken pox infection caused due to the Varicella virus.
Chicken pox during pregnancy can have serious consequences to the baby, depending on when in pregnancy the infection occurs.
- If the infection occurs in the first 20 weeks of pregnancy, there is a small risk that the baby will be born with congenital Varicella syndrome, comprising of serious birth defects.
- If the infection occurs around the time of delivery, the baby may be born with the chicken pox infection. If this infection is treated, most babies only have mild illness. And without treatment, some infants die.
- A blood test can be done to determine if the women is immune to the chicken pox infection. This test can be done before pregnancy or early in the pregnancy.
- Women who are not immune and not pregnant can get vaccinated. Such woman should avoid getting pregnant at least for 1 month after vaccination.
- In case of pregnant woman who are not immune, she should avoid anyone with chicken pox and also anyone who has had contact with someone with the disease.
- If the pregnant woman has been in close contact with an infected person, she can receive a special injection, which can prevent chicken pox or lessen its activity. This treatment is safe both for the mother as well as the baby.
- A pregnant woman should contact the concerned doctor at the earliest incase of any contact with someone with the chicken pox infection.
Cytomegalovirus (CMV) is a common viral infection occurring most often in the young children. It is usually harmless and does not cause any symptoms.
However, when the pregnant woman gets infected with CMV, she can pass on the virus to her baby. This can lead to serious illness ranging from disabilities to even death. The babies infected with the CMV virus may develop mental retardness, learning disabilities, hearing loss, vision loss or other disabilities.
CMV infection can be prevented by the following:
- Wash the hands well before the contact with the saliva and urine of young children.
- Carefully throw away the diapers and the tissues.
- Avoid sharing drinking glasses and eating utensils with the young children.
- Health care workers, childcare providers and other should get tested of any infection with CMV, before they try to get pregnant.
- If a woman was infected before she gets pregnant, there is little to worry about.
Fifth disease (erythema infectiosum) is a common, mild childhood illness. It is caused by parvovirus B19.
Women with young children and those who work with them (example, childcare providers and teachers) are at greatest risk of exposure and infection to the fifth disease.
About 60% of adult who had infected the disease during their childhood, are immune to the infection during their adults. Most unborn babies are unaffected if their mother gets infected.
However, this is not always the case. Sometimes the baby too gets infected. This infection can disrupt the ability to produce the red blood cells leading to a dangerous form of anemia, heart failure and sometimes even death of the unborn child (2% to 9%).
- Wash the hands often, especially after touching tissues used by children who might be infected.
- Do not share drinking glasses and utensils with anyone who has or was exposed to the illness.
- In case of any doubt about exposure to the fifth disease contact the healthcare provider.
Flu & Pregnancy
Influenza or the Flu as it is commonly called as a common and contagious respiratory illness caused by a virus. The flu can result in severe illness and life-threatening conditions.
Complications of flu, such as bacterial pneumonia and dehydration, can be serious and sometimes, fatal. Pregnancy increases the risk of these and other complications. A pregnant woman is most likely to be hospitalized because of these complications. Flu can change a pregnant woman’s immune system and affect her heart and lungs, leading to an increase in the risk of complications.
Flu shots are generally considered safe at any stage of pregnancy. However, these flu shots cannot be given to the pregnant women who are allergic to eggs. This is because egg products are used to make such vaccines. All pregnant women should avoid nasal flu mist vaccine (LAIV).
- Avoid close contact with the people who are sick.
- Clean the hands often.
- Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth.
- If any flu like symptoms is observed, immediately contact the doctor.
- Take lots of rest and drink lots of no-alcoholic drink in case of the infection.
- Do not use any medications or supplements without consulting the doctor. They are not safe for your pregnancy.
Group B Strep Infection in Pregnancy
Group B strep or Group B streptococcus or GBS is a certain kind of bacteria that live in the vaginal and rectal area of about 25% of healthy pregnant women. This bacterial infection is a common infection and not serious in the adults, but can be life-threatening to the newborns.
It is possible for a woman to have the GBS colonies on her body without any symptoms. But if a pregnant woman has group b strep, she can pass it on to her child during the time of delivery. The newborn infected by the micro-organism are at the risk of pneumonia, blood infection or meningitis. Most newborns have no long lasting damage, but some may die of the infection.
- The growth of GBS is natural in the body. However, the pregnant woman should be vaccinated against the group B strep before or during the pregnancy in order to prevent the growth of the micro-organisms.
- Infected woman should be given the intravenous vaccine during the labor. This diminishes the chances of the newborn being infected.
Listeriosis is a form of food poisoning caused by bacteria Listeria. Pregnant women are more susceptible to get such infection. If a pregnant woman has listeriosis, she may have a miscarriage, preterm delivery or stillbirth, or her baby may become very ill or even die in more severe cases.
The infection Listeriosis takes 2 weeks to show up. Early signs may include fever, chills, muscle aches, diarrhea and upset stomach. Initial the symptoms resemble that of flu. However, later on the patient may have stiff neck, headache, convulsions or balance loss.
The causative bacteria are found in certain food items. Therefore in order to prevent herself and her baby from such infection, the would-be mother should avoid eating certain food item as mentioned below.
• Do not eat hot dogs or luncheon meats. If you eat such food, reheat them until steaming hot.
• Avoid soft cheese like feta, brie, etc., unless the label says the cheese is made with pasteurized milk. Hard cheese, processed cheeses, cream and cottage cheese are safe to eat.
• Do not eat refrigerated pates or meat spreads. Canned or self stable versions are safe to eat.
• Avoid refrigerated smoked seafood unless it has been cooked. However, canned and self stable versions are safe.
• Do not consume unpasteurized milk or foods made from it.
Rubella also known as German Illness, is a mild childhood illness that can cause serious birth defects in an unborn baby. About 25% of babies whose mothers get the rubella infection in the first trimester of pregnancy have the chances of having serious birth defects which are medically known as Congenital Rubella Syndrome. Congenital rubella syndrome may include eye defects, hearing loss, heart defects, mental retardation and less frequently, movement disorders.
A simple blood test can be done to determine if the pregnant women is immune to the infection. This test should also be done prior to pregnancy.
If the non-pregnant woman is not immune to rubella, she should get vaccinated at least 28 days before trying o get pregnant.
Pregnant women are routinely tested for the rubella virus infection at an early prenatal visit. If the pregnant woman is not immune, she should not be vaccinated during the pregnancy. All she can do is to avoid coming in contact with anyone suffering from the infection. She can get vaccinated soon after the delivery to avoid complications in case of future pregnancies.
Salmonellosis is a food-borne infection caused by the bacteria Salmonella. Symptoms include diarrhea, nausea, and fever and abdominal cramps that last for several days.
Occasionally a pregnant woman passes the infection to her baby. After birth, the infant may develop diarrhea, fever and, less often, meningitis.
Foods that can become contaminated with Salmonella include raw vegetable sprouts and undercooked meats, poultry and eggs.
Salmonella infection can be prevented by:
• Cooking all meats and poultry properly.
• Avoiding fresh pasteurized juices made from fruits and vegetables.
• Avoiding undercooked foods.
• Avoiding raw vegetable sprouts, such as alpha-alpha, clover, radish and mung bean.
H1N1 Flu (Swine Flu)
H1N1 flu or the Swine flu is a contagious, viral infection.
Pregnant women are at increased risk of getting the swine flu infection due to their lower immunity during the pregnancy days.
For many pregnant women, the illness will be mild. But for some, the H1N1 flu progress rapidly and symptoms like dehydration and pneumonia can be serious and even fatal. Some women who have the flu may go into the preterm labor. Therefore the pregnant woman should get vaccinated against the swine flu infection.
H1N1 vaccines are of two types: the H1N1 flu shot and the H1N1 nasal spray flu vaccine. However, the pregnant women should get the H1N1 flu shots.
INFANTS, CHILDREN AND H1N1 FLU
When children below the age of 1 year get the flu, they are at high risks of complications such as serious conditions and pneumonia. Because of the possible risk of complications, infants with the H1N1 flu may benefit from an antiviral drug.
BREASTFEEDING WOMEN AND H1N1 FLU
Breastfeeding women who develop the signs of the flu infection may continue breastfeeding after taking to their healthcare provider. They can also continue breast feeding when they are taking the antiviral drugs. This is because a mother’s milk is meant to fight the diseases and it will help the child to fight the H1N1 virus.
Tips to avoid H1N1 Flu:
• Wash hands with warm soaps and water.
• Avoid people who are ill.
• Stay at home in case of sickness.
• Use a tissue to cough, sneeze or spit.
• Avoid touching eyes, nose or mouth.
• Clean shared objects like keyboards, telephone etc., more than often.
• Don’t share your personal items with anyone.
Toxoplasmosis is a common infection caused by the bacteria Toxoplasma gondii. When a pregnant woman gets the infection, it can pose serious risks to her baby.
A baby born with toxoplasmosis may develop eye infections, an enlarged liver and spleen, jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes), and pneumonia. Woefully, some babies die within a few days of birth. Some develop defects like severe mental retardation, have vision loss, cerebral palsy, seizures and other problems.
To avoid the toxoplasmosis infection,
• Don’t eat raw or undercooked meat, especially lamb or pork.
• Wash hands immediately with soap and water after handling raw meat.
• Clean cutting boards, work surfaces and utensils with hot, soapy water after contact with raw meat or unwashed fruit or vegetables.
• Peel or thoroughly wash all raw fruits and vegetables before eating.
• Don't empty or clean the cat's litter box. Let someone else do this.
• Don't feed the cat raw or undercooked meat.
• Keep the cat indoors.
• Don't get a new cat while pregnant.
• Wear gloves while gardening.
• Avoid children’s sandboxes. Cats may use them as litter boxes.
Urinary Tract Infection during Pregnancy
Urinary tract infections (UTI) are infections in the bladder, kidneys, ureters or urethra and are caused by bacteria.
UTIs may cause different symptoms in different people. Sometimes germs can grow in the urinary tract without any symptoms. This is known as asymptomatic bacteriuria. Asymptomatic bacteriuria should be treated in pregnant women, but does not need to be treated in normal women.
Untreated UTI may lead to a kidney infection. Kidney infections may cause preterm labor. Fortunately, asymptomatic bacteriuria and bladder infections can usually be found and treated before the kidneys become infected. If the infection detected and treated early and properly, the baby does not get any harm.