Pregnancy is a time in a woman’s life when she must be all the more careful and take care of herself in order to have a positive outcome. Infections are very common and in pregnancy, there is an increased need to be vigilant and alert for any unfavorable signs and symptoms which can potentially prove harmful for you or the baby.
What are the different types of infections during pregnancy?
Some of the infections are seen during pregnancy are explained below:
The acronym TORCH stands for infections with toxoplasmosis, others (syphilis, hepatitis B, HIV), rubella, cytomegalovirus, and herpes simplex.
When a fetus is forming within the womb and infections like TORCH affect the mother, there may be chances of miscarriage, stillbirth, delayed fetal growth and maturation, or early delivery.
This is an infection due to a parasite and can be transmitted from mother to baby. Toxoplasmosis is related to the smallness of the head, inflammation of the middle and innermost layer of the eyes, calcium deposits in the brain, etc.
This is a viral infection mainly related to fever, upper airway infection, swelling of lymph nodes, skin rash, and joint pain. Adversely affected newborns, babies, or infants may have visual and or hearing impairment, heart defects, calcium deposits in the brain, and or other abnormalities.
This infection is a viral infection encountered during pregnancy or at the birth of a baby or any other age. In the case of newborn babies, it may cause adverse effects like growth restriction, an abnormally small head, enlargement of the liver and spleen, inflammation of the liver, anemia, and calcium deposits in the brain.
It present in the form of blisters on the face and mouth of a newborn may be due to the transmission of genital herpes present in the woman.
In HIV, there is an impact on low birth weight and swelling in the liver and spleen during birth.
It may spread from mother to baby during pregnancy and is connected with preterm birth and in some cases death shortly after birth. Untreated infants who survive are prone to have problems in organs like in brain, eyes, ears, heart, skin, teeth, and bones.
Chickenpox in pregnancy
This infection can be extremely harmful to you as well as your baby, thus it is important to seek help from your healthcare expert as soon as possible.
Chlamydia infection during pregnancy is related to the high risk of before-term labor and its complications. If the infection is present at the time of delivery then the baby may have eye infections or pneumonia.
It is a viral infection that infects the liver and can be passed on to the baby in the womb and the baby may have infection. Your healthcare expert may have a blood test done for hepatitis B as part of your initial antenatal visit. Babies with a high risk of developing hepatitis B are offered hepatitis B vaccine at birth.
This infection may pass on to your baby, the risk is lower than hepatitis B or HIV but it cannot be prevented. In spite of taking precautions if your baby is tested positive for hepatitis C, then they can be referred to a specialist for further evaluation.
Group B streptococcus (GBS)
It can lead to severe medical issues in infants. Your healthcare professional may advise antibiotics during labor to prevent the passage of GBS thus, it is good to have a test done during pregnancy.
In cases of untreated gonorrhea infections especially in pregnancies are connected with miscarriage, preterm birth and low birth weight, premature rupture of membranes around the fetus in the womb, and infection of the fluid in which the fetus floats during pregnancy.
It is a viral infection affecting during pregnancy which can lead to pregnancy loss and complications like birth defects, etc.
What are the various diagnostic tests used in case of infections?
Pregnant women are initially tested during their antenatal visits for certain diseases and infections like rubella, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), and tuberculosis (TB). The different tests important for the infection diagnosis are as follows:
Complete blood count (CBC)
A CBC estimates the number of different cells that are present in the blood. The number of white blood cells may indicate the disease-fighting mechanism in your blood.
Polymerase chain reaction (PCR)
They are extremely reliable, quick blood, mucus, or saliva tests used to diagnose some infectious diseases and genetic changes.
This test is supposed to be done to find out if there may be any bacteria present in urine that could point to a UTI.
Prenatal diagnosis (PND)
One of the PND procedures involves Amniocentesis which is done by removing a small amount of fluid for testing from the womb. Sometimes amniocentesis is done to ascertain if the baby has an infection or other illness. Usually, genetic amniocentesis is done around 15-20 weeks of gestation. Amniocentesis procedure before 15 weeks of pregnancy may involve a high risk of complications. Your healthcare professional may not incline towards amniocentesis if you are suffering from HIV/AIDS, hepatitis B, or hepatitis C infections as they can be passed on to your baby during the procedure.
There are routine USG scans done usually around 12 and 20 weeks to check for proper development of the fetus and surrounding structures. Additionally, sonography can be done in case of bleeding from the vagina or abdominal pain in the initial stages of pregnancy to rule out any other conditions or signs of miscarriage. You might also need extra scans if you are having twins or have any medical issues or any conditions in previous pregnancies.
Which antibiotics are a relatively safer option?
Your healthcare expert will weigh the benefits and risks and accordingly advise you to have antibiotics that are the safest and proper dosage. Always refer your queries and concerns to your healthcare expert. Some of the antibiotics generally considered safe during pregnancy are as below:
–Penicillin, including amoxicillin
–Cephalosporins, including cephalexin
Some other antibiotics which have proven to cause health hazards are:
–Tetracyclines are not advised for use after the 5th week of pregnancy as they can affect bone formation and discolor the baby’s forming teeth.
–Sulfonamides need to be avoided during the first trimester of pregnancy and near the expected date of delivery. They may possess a small risk of heart conditions, cleft lip or palate, and jaundice.
-Some antibiotics are teratogenic and must be avoided at all costs in pregnancy like streptomycin, etc.
What are some of the preventive measures to avoid infections?
-Wash your hands with soap and water after using the bathroom, touching raw meat or eggs, preparing food, gardening or touching soil, handling pets, being around sick people, getting saliva on your hands, changing diapers, etc.
-Limit as much as possible contact with saliva and urine from babies and young children.
-Do not consume unpasteurized or raw milk or foods like cheese made from it.
-Avoid changing the animal litter.
-Stay far away from the dropping of wild animals or rodents.
-Limit going to places that are epidemically infested.
-Your healthcare expert may help you with information regarding vaccinations.
-Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) like HIV and hepatitis B may occur so frequent testing is important to take proper care of it.
-Limit going to people with pre-existing infections.
A healthy and joyful mother can raise a strong baby, so taking precautions and getting tested at your antenatal visit will help your healthcare expert estimate your health status. You will be treated properly and your worries will fade away by following your healthcare provider’s advice and the prospect of welcoming your bundle of joy into the world.