Guarding Against Disease During Pregnancy

While protecting yourself from disease is important at all times, it becomes especially necessary during pregnancy when a baby is in critical stages of development. Having an infectious disease during pregnancy can result in severe and chronic problems in a newborn.

The following provides an overview of several infectious diseases; Openly discuss any relevant history of these diseases or concerns with your provider.

  • Toxoplasmosis - Toxoplasmosis is an infectious disease that you can get from eating raw meat or having been exposed to infected excretions of household pets such as cats, rabbits, and birds. For a pregnant woman, this infection may produce no symptoms at all or may include fever, chills, headache, rash, or muscular pain. Diagnosis can be made from a blood test. The impact of Toxoplasmosis is much more severe for your developing baby. This infection can result in miscarriage, stillbirth, or birth of an infected infant who may suffer from vision loss, hearing loss, mental retardation, or abnormal skull or brain development. The following precautions will help you avoid Toxoplasmosis:

    • Cook all meat thoroughly
    • Wash your hands after touching raw meat, and avoid touching your eyes or mucous membranes while preparing meat
    • Wash all kitchen surfaces with soap that comes in contact with uncooked meat
    • Wear gloves or even better; avoid contact with rabbits, cat feces (including litter boxes and contaminated gardening soil), and birdcages
  • Rubella - Rubella, or German measles, is a common infectious disease that approximately 15% of women are susceptible to. While the rash and fever from this infection usually pass quickly and complete recovery for the mother is expected, rubella may have serious effects on a developing baby. This includes congenital heart disease, eye lesions such as cataracts and glaucoma, hearing defects and deafness, liver conditions such as jaundice, mental retardation, cerebral palsy, diabetes, blood defects such as anemia, and genetic problems. Pregnant women who are not immune to rubella are advised to avoid exposure to infected individuals and avoid travel to area of the world where people are not routinely immunized against rubella. If you are not immune, talk to our doctors and nurses about being vaccinated after your baby is born.

  • Cytomegalovirus (CMV) - Pregnant women often show no signs of having CMV, but infants born with this infection of cellular tissue may experience eye and ear problems, learning disabilities, mental retardation, and liver problems. CMV can be contracted from infected blood, saliva, urine, semen, cervical secretions, and breast milk. No treatment or preventive vaccine is available. Be sure to talk about CMV with our doctors and nurses especially if you:

    • Work in a dialysis center or with patients who have immune system disorders
    • Work in a nursery or day-care center
    • Plan to breast-feed
  • Hepatitis B Virus (BVV) - Because of the widespread incidence of Hepatitis B, women are screened during pregnancy for this virus, and newborns are routinely given HBV immunizations as soon as possible after birth. Hepatitis B can cause liver inflammation and related problems. Symptoms include jaundice, lethargy, loss of appetite, vomiting, and fever. HBV may be contracted from infected blood, saliva, and semen. The risk of contracting this disease is increased by the use of illicit intravenous drugs, sexual contact with one ore more partners, and blood transfusions. Talk with your doctor/midwife about Hepatitis B if you are: