International Prenatal Infection Prevention Month: How You Can Prevent Prenatal Infections in Your Unborn Baby

February is International Prenatal Infection Prevention Month, serving as an important reminder that your health directly affects the health of your unborn baby. Fortunately, many of the infections that are dangerous to developing babies are quite rare in the United States, thanks to successful immunization programs. But there are still certain harmful infections that can be transmitted to unborn babies and infants through the placenta or during birth.

Lowering your risk for harmful infections
Though you may not be able to avoid all sources of infection while you’re pregnant, there are certain precautions you can take to reduce your risk. Some of the most common infections that can affect your unborn baby include:

Group B strep
Group B strep is caused by a bacteria that can be passed from mothers to their newborns during vaginal delivery. Though group B strep is not harmful to adults, it can lead to pneumonia (inflammation of the lungs), meningitis (inflammation of the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord), and bacteremia (infection in the bloodstream) in infants.

What you can do:

  • Get tested for group B strep when you’re 35-37 weeks pregnant
  • If you test positive, an antibiotic administered during labor can prevent the bacteria from spreading

Cytomegalovirus (CMV) is usually an asymptomatic condition that spreads from person to person through body fluids like blood, saliva, urine, semen and breast milk. A newborn CMV infection can cause permanent issues, such as hearing or vision loss, seizures, mental disability and even death.

What you can do:

  • Get tested to determine whether or not you carry the virus
  • Wash hands often, especially after changing a diaper or wiping your child’s nose or mouth
  • Avoid sharing utensils and food

Listeriosis is a serious infection caused by consuming food contaminated with the bacteria listeria, and pregnant women are 10 times more likely than the general population to contract the bacteria. Warning signs of listeriosis usually include a fever and other nonspecific symptoms, like fatigue and aches. Listeriosis can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, and premature delivery.

What you can do:

  • Avoid hot dogs and delicatessen meats, unless heated or reheated until steaming hot
  • Avoid raw, unpasteurized milk, including soft cheeses made from unpasteurized milk
  • Avoid raw or undercooked fish or seafood
  • Avoid refrigerated pates and meat spreads
  • Avoid contaminating other foods and preparation surfaces
  • Wash hands after handling any raw or unpasteurized foods
  • If experiencing fever and other nonspecific symptoms, seek medical attention within 24 hours

The physicians and staff at Alaska Family Sonograms understand that pregnancy can be a confusing time, and it’s difficult to have all the answers. For more information on prenatal care, call the team at Alaska Family Sonograms today at (907) 885-0390 to schedule an appointment.

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