February is recognized as International Prenatal Infection Prevention Month, a time to bring awareness to preventing infections transmitted from mother to baby. Because of the serious nature of prenatal infections for mother and baby, prevention is a crucial part of maternal healthcare.
According to the Encyclopedia of Children’s Health, “Perinatal infections include bacterial or viral illnesses that can be passed from a mother to her baby either while the baby is still in the uterus or during the delivery process. Maternal infection can, in some cases, cause complications at birth. The mother may or may not experience active symptoms of the infection during the pregnancy. Some perinatal infections are sexually transmitted.”
Although many of these are top of mind in light of the novel coronavirus, there are easy and simple steps that can be taken to protect the mother and unborn child from infections during pregnancy.
Wash your hands with soap and water.
In addition to washing your hands more often these days after common occurrences, like going to the grocery store or pumping gas, the CDC also recommends washing your hands well after:
- Using the bathroom
- Touching raw meat, raw eggs, or unwashed vegetables
- Preparing food and eating
- Gardening or touching dirt or soil
- Handling pets
- Being around people who are sick
- Getting saliva (spit) on your hands
- Caring for and playing with children
- Changing diapers
Try to avoid or reduce contact with saliva and urine from babies and young children.
The CDC states, “a common virus called cytomegalovirus (CMV) can cause problems for some babies, including microcephaly and hearing loss. A woman who is infected with CMV can pass the virus to her developing baby during pregnancy. Women may be able to lessen their risk of getting CMV by reducing contact with saliva and urine from babies and young children. Some ways to do this are by not sharing food and utensils with babies and young children, and washing hands after changing diapers.”
Avoid unpasteurized milk and cheeses.
Unpasteurized milks and cheeses have a higher chance of containing a harmful bacteria called Listeria. Especially in soft cheeses, look for labels that state that the product is pasteurized.
Avoid changing cat litter and stay away from rodents and their droppings.
If you can’t have someone else change the cat litter, be sure to wear gloves and always wash your hands after taking it to the trash. Dirty cat litter can contain a parasite called toxoplasmosis.
In addition to steering clear of cat litter, you should also try to avoid rodents and their droppings as they could carry a harmful virus.
Protect yourself from Zika virus.
The CDC states, “Zika virus can be passed from a pregnant woman to her fetus during pregnancy or to her baby around the time of birth.” Zika virus infection during pregnancy can cause severe health issues and defects. The CDC also shares these helpful guidelines to avoiding Zika:
- If you are pregnant, do not travel to areas with Zika.
- If you must travel to an area with Zika, talk to your doctor or other healthcare provider first and strictly follow steps to prevent mosquito bites during the trip.
- If you have a partner who lives in or has traveled to an area with Zika, use condoms from start to finish, every time you have intercourse to protect against infection or do not have sex during the pregnancy.
- If you are trying to become pregnant
- Talk with your healthcare provider before traveling to areas with Zika and strictly follow steps to prevent mosquito bites during the trip.
Talk to your healthcare provider about vaccinations.
If you have any questions about vaccinations that you should have before you become pregnant, during pregnancy or postpartum, talk to your healthcare provider. Having the right vaccinations is an important step in keeping you and your baby healthy.
Talk to A Midwife
Prenatal infections can affect both you and your baby. Sometimes, complications may even last after birth. At City of Oaks Midwifery, we believe in caring for the whole woman in all stages of her life. If you have any questions about prenatal infections and how to help prevent them, we are here to help. Call (919) 351-8253 to make an appointment at our Raleigh, NC midwifery practice.