It is during pregnancy that you and your baby are most connected--whatever you do during pregnancy has some kind of effect (in varying degrees) to your unborn child. That's why it's crucial to eat healthy, have some kind of mild exercise, and go to your doctor regularly. The bottom line is that you take care of yourself like your child's life depends on it -- because it does.
Now with the Zika virus spreading across the globe at an alarming rate, it’s best to be informed. More and more health officials believe that it is linked to the rise of cases of babies with microcephaly. However, if you’re pregnant or planning to get pregnant, it’s not the only virus that you should watch out for.
So what happens if you get infected by a virus or bacteria when you have a bun in the oven? Here's are some of the most infections a pregnant women shouldn't get and how to steer clear of them:
1. Rubella/German Measles The Risks: Miscarriage, pre-term birth or stillbirth, or your baby could develop Congenital Rubella Syndrome (CRS), which can cause birth defects and developmental problems such as deafness, eye defects, and heart malformations. The risk is greater if you get it during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.
Protect yourself: If you got the shots when you were young or you already had it when you were young, you’re probably immune, but it’s always better to take the test and be sure. Do this before getting pregnant, so your doctor can give you an immunization shot if results say you’re not immune.
During pregnancy, you and anyone you come in close contact with should stay away from anyone infected. If you do get exposed, contact your doctor ASAP. You may be given a shot of immune globulin only to reduce the chances of birth defects for your baby.
2. Chicken Pox The risks: Congenital Varicella Syndrome (CVS), which could cause birth defects such as skin scarring, malformed limbs, and neurological and vision problems. What you don't want is to get chicken pox between 13 and 20 weeks gestation when there’s a higher risk for CVS.
Protect yourself: You should get the vaccine a month before trying to conceive (Let’s take a moment to stress the importance of vaccines!) If you’re not immune and was exposed to the virus, you’ll also be at risk for pneumonia. Your doctor can give you a shot called VariZIG that can reduce the chances of complications and some antiviral medicines.
3. Hepatitis B The risks: Premature birth, low birth weight, gestational diabetes, and heavy bleeding during the later stage of pregnancy. Pregnant women who are carriers of Hepatitis B can pass the infection to their baby.
Protect yourself: Again, get the shot before getting pregnant! You can have no symptoms and still carry the Hepatitis B virus, which can cause liver damage and can be potentially fatal. Doctors can treat it with medicines, depending on the level of hepatitis B virus in your system. Hepatitis B can be spread via intercourse, so practice safe sex.
Immediately after giving birth, your baby should be given a shot of hepatitis B antibodies shot to protect him from the infection. Within 12 hours of life, your baby should also get his first dose of the hepatitis B vaccine.
4. Bacterial Vaginosis (BV) The risks: Unclear, but it’s linked to preterm birth, low-birth weight, and for a few cases, miscarriage; plus, a higher risk for getting uterine infections and sexually transmitted infections such as chlamydia and gonorrhea, which can lead to your baby having conjunctivitis and eventually blindness if left untreated. (Note that sexually transmitted infections can be passed on to the baby during labor and delivery, so talk to your doctor about that.)
Protect yourself: BV is the most common bacterial infection among child-bearing-age women. If you have a history for uterine infections or considered high risk for preterm labor, you should be screened for BV and given antibiotics if results come out positive. Better yet, practice safe sex, quit smoking and take extra care of your health “down there”.
5. Dengue The risks: Stillbirth, low birth weight, or premature birth, as the virus can be passed on to your baby in the womb.
Protect yourself: It is not yet known if a pregnant woman can get the new dengue vaccine, so take precautions. Use insect repellant, cover up, and stay away from places that breed dengue-carrying mosquitos. If you’re already infected, you need to get admitted in the hospital so doctors can properly monitor you. Take plenty of rest, hydrate often, and take prescribed medicines that can help alleviate the symptoms.
This list includes infections that pose the greatest risks for mom and baby during pregnancy and childbirth.
Sources: Infections to watch out for in pregnancy (babycentre.com.uk) Infections in pregnancy that may affect your baby (nhs.uk) Protect Your Unborn Baby or Newborn from Infections (cdc.gov)