Infections like urine infection, yeast infection, chicken pox and many more are not very problematic in general, but when you are pregnant, they can impose a high degree of risk both to the mother and the child. It is necessary to know about those infections which are commonly seen in pregnant women and the health hazards imposed by them. You should also know the protective measures necessary to prevent such infections.

Cough, cold and flu

Common cold, cough and flu are common infections which can affect anyone. Pregnant women are no less vulnerable to this infection than others. According to studies, while the flu is unlikely to cause any birth defects in the baby, it is likely to last three times longer for a pregnant woman compared to the general population. There is also a high risk of complications like pneumonia. It is best not to take over the counter medicines if you do get the flu, though paracetamol in normal doses and inhaled decongestants are considered safe. Before taking other medicines or in case of complications like green phlegm, you should consult your doctor.

The best way to deal with flu is to get vaccinated for it before you start planning to conceive.

Group B Streptococcus (GBS)

The GBS is a bacterium that normally occurs in the vaginal, rectal and oral flora. During the process of delivery, the baby is exposed to the body fluids of the mother without the protection of the placental barrier. During this time, the GBS is transmitted from the mother to the baby. The rate of transmission is 50%. The infection can take two forms in the baby. The first one affects infants less than 7 days old who develop sepsis, pneumonia and meningitis. The other form manifests between the age of 7 days to 89 days and takes the form of meningitis and non focal bacteremia. Babies who survive may end up with loss of vision and hearing and neurological problems.
According to recommendations of CDC, all pregnant women should undergo GBS screening between 35 and 37 weeks. If results are positive, they should be treated with medicines such as penicillin G at the time of delivery.

Urinary tract infections (UTI)

UTI is common in women of all ages, but the risk is more during pregnancy. This is because the urethra becomes shorter during this time allowing easy entry for the bacteria. Also, the pressure of the uterus on the bladder prevents complete evacuation which increases the risk of infection. In 10 to 15% cases, the women may have asymptomatic infection. Of all these women, 20 to 40% may develop acute pyelonephritis. The results of these infections are premature delivery and low birth weight and also maternal hernia in some cases.
Certain precautionary measures can help prevent UTI. These include adhering to a higher standard of hygiene, drink plenty of water, avoiding tub baths and wiping from front to back to avoid infection.

Yeast infection

Yeast infection is common during pregnancy. It occurs when the acid and flora balance in the vagina is disturbed, leading to an overgrowth of yeast. It is an uncomfortable condition where you may experience copious amount of curd like vaginal discharge smelling like yeast. In addition, there is a burning sensation during urination. The risk of yeast infection is higher during pregnancy because of all the hormonal changes. They sometimes cause an increase in the sugar level in your vagina. The yeast can feed on that and begin to flourish.
You should wear loose cotton cloth, prevent douching and eat curds to reduce the chances of yeast infection.

Bacterial Vaginosis (BV)

Sometimes you may think that you have got yeast infection, but actually you are suffering from bacterial Vaginosis (BV). 16% of all pregnant women in USA experience BV. It is caused by the overgrowth of certain flora in the vaginal tract. This infection can be communicated to the fetus and in some cases this may lead to intrauterine death. CDC recommends that women who are at high risk of premature labor should be tested for bacterial Vaginosis. Oral antibiotics are administered under medical supervision to control the condition. However, applying creams to the vaginal tract is avoided.

Toxoplasmosis

One of the serious infections in pregnancy is toxoplasmosis. It is caused by a parasite called toxoplasma gondii which is found in high proportion in raw meat and cat feces. If you previously had this infection, you will be immune to it. Around 30% of pregnant women actually had this disease in the silent form previously, but since the symptoms are very similar to flu, you may not even realize that you had the disease.
In 30 to 40% of cases where the mother is infected with toxoplasmosis, the infection is passed to the fetus. If the mother catches the infection in first trimester, there is a 15% chance of the infection being passed to the fetus, but it increases to 70% in the third trimester. It may lead to miscarriage or stillbirth. If the baby survives, there may be problems like blindness, hydrocephaly, brain damage, epilepsy, deafness etc.
Toxoplasmosis can be prevented by avoiding all raw meat and keeping raw meat well separated from other foodstuff. You should stop changing cat litter and wear gloves all the times while handling your cat. Be sure to take your cat to the vet for a thorough checkup.

Genital herpes

If the mother develops herpes, there is a chance that the infection will be passed on to the baby. The risk is far higher if the first attack occurs at 28 weeks of pregnancy because the antibody in the mother takes about 12 weeks to develop. Herpes can induce premature labor or poor growth of the infant. If it is contracted in late pregnancy, chances are high that it will be passed to the infant. As a result, mothers who get herpes in advanced months are generally offered a C-section. But, overall, most mothers with genital herpes have healthy babies and normal delivery with proper treatment.

Listeriosis

This is one of the most under diagnosed causes of neonatal sepsis. It is caused by bacteria that is found in soil and water and is transmitted by contamination from animals, animal products and ready to eat foods. One third of all cases of listeriosis occur during pregnancy and pregnant women are 20 times more likely to get the infection. In USA, 2500 cases of listeriosis during pregnancy is reported o which 500 end in fatalities. The infection is transferred to the baby by placenta leading to premature labor and the delivery of an infected baby. 50% of such babies do not survive.
You should thoroughly wash and cook raw foods before eating them and eliminate foods like soft cheeses and unpasteurized milk from your diet. Known infection is treated with antibiotics and with proper treatment, you can deliver a healthy, non infected baby.

Sexually transmitted disease

The common sexually transmitted diseases that can occur during pregnancy are Chlamydia and gonorrhea.

  • Chlamydia is reported in 5% of cases. It can lead to a number of complications like pelvic inflammatory disease and infertility in the mother. The infection is passed to the baby during second stage of labor. However, antibiotic treatments, if applied timely, can help to avoid transmission in 90% cases.
  • Gonorrhea is another sexually transmitted disease and it can also infect the baby during labor. The baby may develop acute conjunctivitis, arthritis, sepsis or meningitis. Careful medical supervision is necessary because the treatment is quite complicated.