While a cold or flu is usually more of an annoyance than a risk during pregnancy, there are some major infections that can be dangerous to an unborn child. Understanding these infections can help mothers-to-be keep their babies safe.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that all pregnant women be tested for hepatitis B. Hepatitis B is a virus that causes inflammation of the liver. It is spread through blood and other bodily fluids. People who work with a person infected with the virus and those with several sexual partners are at greater risk of contracting the disease.
Most people make a full recovery from Hepatitis B, but some become carriers of the virus and could develop further issues such as liver cancer and cirrhosis. In addition, these carriers can pass along the virus to their babies.
However, if the baby gets both the hepatitis B vaccine and immune globulin within 12 hours of birth followed by two more injections of the vaccine during the first six months of her life, there is a 95 percent chance that infection can be prevented.
There are ways pregnant women can protect themselves and their babies from hepatitis B: Getting the vaccine and avoiding exposure to the disease. If a baby does become infected, the CDC says that mothers should follow recommended treatment protocol.
Toxoplasmosis is a parasitic infection caused by eating undercooked meat or from exposure to cat feces. More than 60 million people in the U.S. are carriers of the parasite that causes toxoplasmosis. However, many do not exhibit symptoms because their immune systems usually prevent the parasite from making them sick. In this instance, they usually cannot pass it on to their babies.
However, mothers-to-be who are unsure if they have had toxoplasmosis, requesting a blood test is advised. If the blood test is positive, the unborn baby will need to be tested. If the baby is infected, he or she can be safely treated with medications during the first year of her life or longer to prevent possible disabilities and other health defects.
Again, the best safeguard is prevention. Pregnant women should avoid preparing or eating undercooked or raw meat, thoroughly wash and peel all raw produce, and avoid cleaning or emptying litter boxes.
Source: Parents.com, “Pregnancy Infections,” 2012