A to Zs of Prenatal Infections & How to Avoid Them

Can prenatal infection harm your baby? This article explores the common infections faced by Mothers during pregnancies and most importantly, how to avoid them.

Importance of Prenatal Health

It is known that the 9-month gestational period is divided into 3 distinct trimesters. Each trimester differs in terms of your baby’s growth development and the risks imposed. Simply said, the further you are into your pregnancy, the less likely you are to face huge risks or serious complications.

For a safe and healthy pregnancy, expecting women are often advised to stick to a balanced diet, maintain a regular non-strenuous exercise routine and not get involved with smoking and drinking.

Types of Prenatal Infections & Precautions

Despite taking very good care of yourself and adhering to every single one of your doctor’s advice, prenatal infections can still happen unknowingly. While these infections may be considered low risk amongst adults, they can be risky when contracted by expecting women.

Here, we let you in on the types of infections and how to prevent them.

1. Zika Virus

The Zika virus is a viral infection that happens when an infected Aedes mosquito bites and transmission takes place. As it can be sexually transmitted between humans, transmission from mother to the foetus can also happen.

Symptoms are not apparent here but some may experience a bout of fever, rash, conjunctivitis and pain in the joints.

In pregnancy, Zika is linked to the following foetal complications:

  • Microcephaly (stunted head growth)

  • Brain damage

  • Miscarriage

  • Stillbirth

Precautions:

  • Sleep with a mosquito net

  • Pack on the mosquito repellents

  • Take necessary measures to keep your surrounding mozzie-free

  • Avoid sexual contact if your partner was in a Zika infected area

2. Group B Streptococcus (GBS)

GBS is a bacterium that normally lives in our bodies and usually causes no harm. Even so, a small risk would be present when a woman carries these bacteria inside her vagina.

What happens is that the baby could become infected during vaginal delivery which can eventually be life-threatening for the baby. Meanwhile, preterm labour and delivery will increase the severity of the illness.

Symptoms and complications for infected babies include:

  • Fever, fatigue, breathing difficulties, blue-tinged skin

  • Pneumonia

  • Meningitis

  • Sepsis (a blood infection)

Precautions:

  • Take tests to find out if you are at risk of GBS as there are no vaccines available

  • If tested positive, take the antibiotics during labour to avoid passing GBS to baby

  • Regularly monitor baby in the event they develop a late-onset form of the infection

3. Cytomegalovirus (CMV)

Cytomegalovirus (CMV) is a form of the herpes virus, a common occurrence among young children. Upon infection, the virus will usually remain dormant within a person for the rest of their life. In unborn children, it can be contracted either from the dormant virus reactivating in the mother or a new infection during the course of pregnancy.

The risk is highest during the first half of the pregnancy, and can result in:

  • Permanent intellectual disabilities

  • Developmental delays

  • Hearing or vision loss

  • Cerebral palsy

Precautions:

  • Wash hands regularly

  • Do not kiss or share toothbrushes, food and drinks with young children

4. Listeriosis

Listeriosis is an infection caused by the bacteria listeria, which is found in the environment. This includes soil, water and animals such as cows.

When it is ingested by humans via contaminated food, the bacteria begin feeding on human cells and cause listeriosis, which is known to be particularly risky for infants and the elderly. Furthermore, pregnant women become more susceptible to Listeriosis as they get further into their pregnancy.

Listeriosis can cause:

  • Preterm birth

  • Miscarriage

  • Stillbirth

  • Life-threatening illness

Precautions:

  • Avoid contaminated food like unpasteurised milk and dairy, deli meat, salad bars, meat spreads, pate, soft cheese and soft-serve ice cream

  • Thoroughly wash all fruits and vegetables before consumption

5. Escheria Coli (E. Coli)

E. coli is a bacterium that can be found naturally in your vagina and gut. It is generally harmless but when passed from the mother’s genital tract to the baby during childbirth, it may cause sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) in newborns.

E. coli infection in a pregnant woman can affect your pregnancy by increasing various complications:

  • Diarrhoea results in loss of body fluids leading to dehydration

  • In some rare cases, the pregnant woman may start to bleed heavily

  • Preterm birth

  • Miscarriage

  • Low birth weight

Precautions:

  • Clean hands with disinfectant after touching raw meat

  • Wash hands with soap after using or cleaning the toilet, dirty linens and towels, changing diapers and coming into contact with animals

6. Other common infections

Infections are not limited to the above and can expand into yeast infections that are not harmful to mother and baby but are instead uncomfortable. Then, there is also Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) that is treatable and where the baby will remain unharmed for as long as it does not develop into a kidney infection.

It is important to speak to your doctor to ensure you and baby are in the best of health.

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