Preventing Prenatal Infections

by Brian M. Williams

Preventing Prenatal InfectionsPregnant moms already face see-saw emotions, battle cravings and fret about the multiple twinges and kicks taking place.

It seems that there is always something to be concerned with and a mom-to-be can't just relax. But as the old saying goes, better to be prepared and prevent then have one of these infections affect you and your baby.

Here is a short list you want to prevent:

  • Untreated urinary tract infections
  • Group B Streptococcus
  • Toxoplasmosis
  • CMV -- Cytomegalovirus
  • Contagious kids with rubella, fifth's disease and other sicknesses

The list sounds scary and unpleasant. We're not overly fond of it either. Since February is International Prenatal Infection Prevention Month, it's the perfect time to become more aware of what's out there and use simple steps to guard yourself against infections and protect you and your baby.

Prevention Awareness and Tips

Even though some of these suggestions might seem like common sense solutions, they will make a difference for you.

Wash your hands.The first and simplest way to stave off infection is by washing your hands regularly with soap and water, especially after:

  • Using the bathroom
  • Changing diapers
  • Caring for or playing with young children
  • Touching raw meat, raw eggs and unwashed vegetables
  • Gardening or handling soil
  • Handling pets
  • Being around sick people

If soap and running water aren't available, you can substitute an alcohol-based hand gel.

Clean surfaces. Use soap and water or a disinfectant to clean toys, countertops, and other surfaces that may have a child's saliva or urine on them.

Sharing is not Caring. This time around, it isn't wise to share forks, cups, food, or a toothbrush with your child (or anyone else). That includes "washing" your child's pacifier in your mouth.

Follow cooking instructions. Cook your meat until it's well done. The juices should run clear and there should be no pink inside. Reheat hot dogs, luncheon meats and deli meats until steaming hot.

Skip the packaged salads and sprouts. These could be breeding grounds for bacteria or worse. If you're craving the green stuff, opt for fresh and use a good vegetable/fruit cleanser before eating produce.

Avoid unpasteurized milk products. Don't eat soft cheeses such as feta, brie, and queso fresco unless they're labels pasteurized. Unpasteurized products can contain harmful bacteria like listeria.

Delegate Cat Litter Duty. Ask someone else do it. If you do change the litter yourself, wear gloves and wash your hands afterwards.

Stay away from sick people. This isn't easy when your child's sick. No matter what, you truly want to avoid people who have chickenpox or rubella. If you can't keeps away, wash your hands often.

Avoid wild or pet rodents and their droppings. If you have a pet rodent, like a hamster or guinea pig, have someone tend it until after your baby arrives. Some rodents might carry a harmful virus.

Ask your doctor about Group B Strep. About one in four women carry this type of bacteria. An easy swab test near the end of pregnancy will show if you have this type of bacteria. If you test positive, consult your doctor on next steps.

Let your midwife or doctor know if you've been exposed to viruses such as fifth disease ("slapped cheek disease" or chicken pox). They will be able to tell you what to do next.

Infections at a Glance

According to the Group B Strep International website, Group B streptococcus is the leading infectious killer of newborns. Other types of infections that can be harmful to an unborn or newborn baby.

Group B Strep

Approximately 1 in 4 pregnant women carry GBS, the most common cause of life-threatening infections in newborns according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

You'll be offered a vaginal swab test between 35 and 37 weeks. If your culture tests positive, your physician might recommend giving you antibiotics through IV during your delivery to prevent your baby from becoming ill.

CMV: Cytomegalovirsus Infection

A pregnant woman infected with CMV can pass the virus to her baby during pregnancy. Most babies born with CMV infection will be fine and will not have symptoms or develop health problems. However, some babies will have permanent problems, such as hearing or vision loss or mental disabilities, at birth, or develop problems later on.

CMV passes from infected people to others through body fluids, such as saliva, urine, blood, vaginal secretions, and semen. Pregnant women commonly face exposure to CMV through sexual activity and tending children with CMV infection.

Listeriosis and Pregnancy

Pregnant women are about 20 times more likely than other healthy adults to get a serious infection called listeriosis, but you can take steps to protect yourself as well as your unborn baby or newborn. You can protect yourself from listeriosis by avoiding:

  • Hot dogs and delicatessen meats unless they have been heated or reheated until steaming hot
  • Soft cheeses unless they are made from pasteurized milk
  • Prepackaged deli salads (such as chicken salad and seafood salad)
  • Fresh sprouts and bagged salad mixes
  • Refrigerated pates and meat spreads
  • Refrigerated smoked seafood

Toxoplasmosis

Toxoplasmosis can often go unrecognized but can be prevented with the proper precautions. The primary host of the parasite is cats. You can become infected from contact with cat litter, by eating raw or under cooked meats or unwashed fruits and vegetables.

International Prenatal Infection Awareness Month's goal is to provide pregnant women with information to prevent infection and keep their unborn baby safe and healthy.

Please join us in raising spreading the word. Pass this article along to the pregnant women you know!

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