Our environment has plenty of germs or organisms which can cause infections. Infections in pregnancy can be harmful to the mother and her baby. Screen for infections like Bacterial vaginosis and GBS especially in women with the previous history of preterm birth. They can affect in the following ways:
- They can affect the mother and weaken her and the medications used may be harmful to the fetus
- Infections can pass to the fetus and cause abnormalities including fetal demise sometimes.
- They can trigger preterm labour and preterm birth or a miscarriage
Certain precautions taken before and during pregnancy can prevent these infections and protect the mother and her baby. General measures to be taken are as follows by Dr.Padmalatha V V, Consultant Obstetrics and Gynaec, SPARSH Hospital, Bangalore:
- Avoid visiting and close contact with people who are sick
- Avoid uncooked and undercooked food, more so while eating outside
- Avoid eating in places with doubtful hygiene, especially street food
- Avoid unpasteurized milk and dairy products like soft cheese
Early detection with routine screening and treatment with appropriate antibiotics is needed, sometimes requiring long term prophylactic antibiotics too. Avoid mosquito bites; cover yourself, mosquito repellants especially in areas with Dengue, Malaria, Zika virus etc. Stay away from wild or pet rodents and their droppings. These can lead to diseases like listeria which can affect the baby.
- Do not touch or change dirty cat litter, this can cause Toxoplasmosis which can cause abnormalities in the baby
- Care to be taken while handling babies and small children as infections like CMV pass through excreta of children.
- Eat healthily and sleep well and maintain immunity. Prevention and treatment of anaemia with iron-rich foods and iron supplements is essential.
- Use condoms to prevent STDs and Zika, these infections pass on to the fetus and cause growth problems and congenital abnormalities in the baby. Screening for sexually transmitted diseases is a part of routine pregnancy care. Appropriate antiviral therapy and measures can prevent mother to child transmission of HIV to the baby.
- Urinary tract infections are common in women, more so in pregnancy. These not only can aggravate very quickly and affect the mother but also lead to preterm labour and affect the baby. Tackle urinary Tract Infections by following: Hydrate yourself well, don’t withhold urine.
Take precautions while using public toilets:
- Try to not have direct contact of the toilet seat
- Carry soap, sanitizers, tissues, wet wipes etc.
- Stand and pee devises available can help in preventing infections
Wash your hands with soap and water after the following:
- Using the bathroom
- Touching raw meat, raw eggs, or unwashed vegetables
- Preparing food and eating
- Gardening or touching dirt or soil
- Handling pets
- Being around people who are sick
- Getting saliva (spit) on your hands
- Caring for and playing with children,
- Changing diaper
Specific measures by Dr.Padmalatha V V
Vaccinations boost the immunity of the woman against the infection and protect her. Maternal antibodies transferred to the baby through the placenta (passive immunity), protect the baby against the infections, even before the baby can make his or her antibodies.
Vaccines before pregnancy: (Avoid pregnancy for a month after vaccination)
- Check for immunity against Rubella, Varicella etc.
- Vaccinate with MMR, Varilrix (chickenpox) and Hepatitis B vaccines as needed.
- More vaccinations may be needed in specific situations like travel and immunocompromised states.
Vaccines during pregnancy:
Live vaccines are contraindicated. However, accidental vaccination with pregnancy does not warrant termination for the fear of abnormalities of the fetus.
- TT (second trimester) and Tdap (Boostrix) between 27-36 weeks.
- Flu shot during flu season must be given. High-risk mothers like nurses, health care workers and immunocompromised, must be vaccinated at the earliest.
- More vaccines may be needed in specific situations.
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