Infections During Pregnancy

First published in Beyond India, October 2016 edition.

Dr Nupur Goyal

Planning for motherhood is both exciting and stressful. Therefore, it is important to be educated about how to maintain a healthy lifestyle during pregnancy and avoid certain infections. Being vigilant can help avoid major complications like miscarriages, birth deformities and premature labour.

Fortunately, most infections such as the common cold are relatively safe and will not harm your baby. However, it is important to know when to be concerned and how to prevent certain bugs that could potentially cause complications.

First of all, if you’re planning on starting a family, it is important to see a GP and organise to be screened for basic infections and/or deficiencies to ensure that your body is in perfect health to provide a home for your baby for nine months. Your GP can offer you some blood tests to screen for certain infections such as HIV, hepatitis, rubella and syphilis that can be harmful for the baby if you have them. It is also worthwhile to provide a urine sample to test for any bugs in the urine that you may not realise you have. Your GP can also offer you vaccinations against certain infections such as chicken pox or even the flu if you’re not already immunised. These simple measures can help ensure that you and your baby are safe from these infections. If you’re already pregnant, it is still a good idea to see a GP as many of these screening tests can also be done in early pregnancy.

If you have other toddlers at home or work with young children, regularly wash your hands with soap especially after changing nappies. If you come in contact with any children that are unwell and develop a rash, it is a good idea to consult your GP.

Another common infection to watch out for is chicken pox. If you’ve already had chicken pox as a kid or you’ve been vaccinated, you’re unlikely to contract it again. However, if you’re not immune and come into contact with anyone that has chicken pox, it is highly recommended that you go see a doctor as it could potentially harm the baby if you’re in your first or second trimester.

It is recommended to avoid close contact with any sick animals during pregnancy. If you have any pets at home, it is a good idea to tell your GP about this as certain infections transmitted by animals can cause harm during pregnancy. If you own a cat, avoid emptying cat litter and wash your hands regularly with soap and warm water.

Certain urine infections and vaginal infections can be transmitted to the baby during birth. If you notice any symptoms such as pain or burning sensation on passing urine, vaginal discharge, blood spotting or vaginal inflammation, consult your doctor as soon as possible. Additionally, if you develop any flu like symptoms, fever or rash do not hesitate to contact your GP.

As Buddha once said “To keep the body in good health is a duty… otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear.” This becomes even more important when you’re pregnant as you’re now not just responsible for your own health but also your baby’s health.