A woman’s immune system weakens during pregnancy owing to the nutritional support her body provides to the fetus. This situation makes a mother’s body highly susceptible to infections. A mother shares her body’s physiological process with the unborn baby, hence, she transcends infections to the unborn, and ultimately the baby gets infected with prenatal infections.
Despite being preventable, pre and postnatal deaths have been a big concern for our country. About a million neonatal deaths occur in India each year and the major cause behind this very alarming situation is infections, passed on to the baby during pregnancy or delivery process. The lack of awareness about infections works as a major hindrance in the prevention of complications at an early stage. These methods provide additional immunity to a mother’s body and hence, reduce her vulnerability to infections.
Prenatal infections include pertussis, urinary tract infections (UTIs), Group B streptococcus (strep), cytomegalovirus, toxoplasmosis, syphilis, herpes, and chickenpox among others. The possibilities of getting infected with diseases like hepatitis B and HIV are high during this period. Prevention of these infections at an early stage is extremely important for they may result in premature birth or miscarriage. A baby with one or other such infections has possibilities of being born with complications such as blindness, hearing loss, intellectual disability, and pneumonia et al.
Vaccines and preventions that will prove beneficial during pregnancy are:
- Tetanus: It is recommended to take the first dose of tetanus vaccine just after the confirmation of pregnancy and the second dose after four weeks.
- Tdap (Pertussis): Tdap vaccine during the third trimester protects baby from whooping cough after birth.
- Group B streptococcus (strep): Test for Strep B is necessary before a few weeks of delivery to detect the infection and if required, an intravenous antibiotic is used during delivery to kill bacteria.
- Influenza: In the second and third trimesters a mother and the unborn baby are at high risk of getting influenza. A routine inactivated influenza vaccine can mitigate the risk.
- Hepatitis B: Safe and effective vaccines are available for the protection from Hepatitis B which can cause premature birth. The recommended schedule of Hep B vaccine should also be completed.
- Hepatitis A: Intake of contaminated water/food, or contact with an infected person are the reasons for this infection which can cause premature delivery and some gestational complications. It can be prevented by administering immunoglobulin.
Have you gone through breast pain during pregnancy?
Dr Renu Raina Sehgal, Chief of the Department of Obstetrics & Gynaecology, Artemis Hospital, Gurugram shares precautions for prevention of hepatitis prenatally.
Transmission via contaminated food and water, sexual contact, recommended taking vaccination for hep A, now included in the immunisation schedule of infants.
As an adult we need to get a shot when:
- we travel to Africa, Mediterranean, Eastern Europe, central and south America and Mexico.
- Use recreational drugs
- Are in military
- Work in daycare centres, health care professional
- Homosexual contact
- Long term liver disease
- Frequent blood transfusion
Vaccination required when:
- Kidney disease, immunocompromised state
- Multiple sexual partners
- Illicit drug use
- Health care professional
- Besides the vaccine
- Don’t share toothbrushes
- Don’t use someone else s needle for drug use
- While getting the tattoo done use sterile gear
- Use condoms during sexual contact
How to prevent toxoplasmosis prenatally:
- Wear gloves when handling soil
- Don’t eat raw/undercooked meat
- Wash kitchen utensils thoroughly
- Wash all fruits and vegetables thoroughly
- Don’t drink unpasteurised milk
- Transmitted by cat litter, undercooked meat, unwashed vegetables/fruit
Hygiene and Nutrition
Proper hygiene and nutritional intake should be maintained during pregnancy as any compromise may result in complications. Regular hand-wash mitigates the risks of infections caused by germs and bacteria. Food should be cooked properly and, unpasteurized food items should be avoided.
The health of a baby depends heavily on the preventive medications taken during pregnancy. Effective vaccines are available and a mother must take the step to prevent any possible complication. They not only help mother and baby during pregnancy period but also work as immunity for baby post-birth. Besides, these medications also help recover the body fast post-delivery. A good dietary and some physical activities are also necessary to be followed.
(With inputs from Dr Renu Raina Sehgal - Chief of the Department of Obstetrics & Gynaecology, Artemis Hospital, Gurugram)
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