House Call: Keys to prenatal infection prevention
In the previous column about taking care of yourself before and during pregnancy, I mentioned avoiding infections. Today’s column will cover details about infections, their potential consequences, and prevention.
Influenza has been in the news a lot lately as it has caused several deaths and hundreds of hospitalizations and doctor visits in our region. Pregnant women are highly susceptible to flu and serious complications from flu. Wash hands frequently. Flu vaccine during pregnancy can protect both you and your baby because you will pass some immunity to the baby before birth. Pregnant individuals should not receive the nasal spray vaccine.
Bacterial vaginosis happens with pH (acid-base balance) changes in the vagina. It is a nuisance outside of pregnancy, but in pregnancy it increases preterm births. Antibiotics usually resolve infections quickly.
Cytomegalovirus is transmitted through bodily fluids. It is rarely a problem for healthy adults, but during pregnancy CMV may cause infants to develop vision loss and other disabilities. Avoid infection by washing your hands frequently and not sharing food, drink or eating utensils.
Group B strep is a bacteria many people carry on their skin without being sick, but if passed to your baby during birth it can be deadly. Routine testing is done in pregnancy and if GBS is present, intravenous antibiotics are given during labor to protect your baby.
Hepatitis B virus can be passed to your baby during birth, resulting in a 90 percent chance of lifelong infection with risk of permanent liver damage or cancer without treatment. If you are considering pregnancy, get tested and/or vaccinated for HBV. Babies of mothers with HBV need a series of vaccines starting immediately after birth to prevent infection. Protecting yourself from HBV infection means avoiding contact with body fluids of anyone whose health and sexual history are not known to you.
Listeriosis is a bacterial infection acquired by eating foods such as unpasteurized or soft cheeses, meat spreads and cold smoked seafood that may be contaminated. Listeriosis may cause early delivery or miscarriage. Avoid these foods during pregnancy.
Many sexually transmitted infections, including HIV, can be passed to the baby before or during birth, causing illness and death. Some of these infections also cause early labor or miscarriage. Prevent STIs by practicing safe sex. Testing and treatment is recommended before and during pregnancy.
The parasitic infection toxoplasmosis can cause hearing damage, blindness and intellectual disabilities in babies of women infected during pregnancy. Avoid toxoplasmosis by washing hands, cleaning produce, cooking meat thoroughly, washing cooking utensils in hot, soapy water and not handling cat litter.
If you would like to read more details about preventing prenatal infections, go to www.cdc.gov/pregnancy/infections.html.
Those of us who are around pregnant women and newborns should have flu, whooping cough, chicken pox (or shingles), MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) and all other recommended vaccinations updated, wash our hands frequently and avoid being near them when we have colds and other illnesses. We can all help to protect pregnant women and their babies.
Dr. Alisa Hideg is a family medicine physician at Group Health’s Riverfront Medical Center in Spokane. Her column appears every other Tuesday in the Today section.