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Infections in Pregnancy

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Some simple and self limiting infections can be threatening in pregnancy and need vigilance and checking by a doctor if suspected.

Some infections could be transmitted by some foods; hence the advice to avoid some food products or take care when preparing these foods. Click here for diet advice in pregnancy.

Other infections may be transmitted by droplet form (like a cold) by people sneezing, sharing cups or kissing.

Listeriosis

 

This is a very rare condition, which can affect the unborn child causing miscarriage, stillbirth or illness in the newborn baby.

Listeria is a bacteria found in soil and so can be present in undercooked or raw meat, poultry, eggs and dairy; hence the care advised in eating such products.

Salmonella

 

Rare again but some uncooked poultry products could conceivably pass on Salmonella. This is a severe gastrointestinal infection that can cause dehydration and sepsis which are threatening to mother and baby. Avoiding raw or runny eggs (& some mayonnaises) as well as uncooked chicken is advised

Toxoplasmosis

 

This disease is rare in pregnancy but can affect the unborn child. This disease can be acquired from cat faeces – so take care when changing cat litter and wear gloves when gardening. Eating undercooked meat could also increase the risk of developing this infection too.

 

Rubella

 

Otherwise known as German measles, rubella can cause deafness in the unborn child.

It is a virus that can be passed on in the droplet form. It is now quite rare as most people are vaccinated against it in the form aof MMR which is given early in life; most pregnant women are immune and every pregnant woman has a check for immunity in the first booking blood tests (and the vaccination would be offered if there is no immunity). However, if you come into contact with the infection whilst pregnant please consult your GP

Chicken Pox (Varicella zoster)

 

This is an infectious disease, which can be serious during pregnancy. If caught in the 2nd trimester week 13-24) then the growing baby can develop ‘congenital varicella syndrome’ which can affect growth, lead to visual and intellectual disability in the child as well as increase the chance of miscarriage. Equally developing chickenpox in the 3rd trimester or perinatal period can pass the infection onto the baby at birth and even cause pneumonitis in the baby.

Chickenpox, caused by the herpes zoster, is a common infection that is droplet borne and can cause malaise, fever and a scarring rash. It is now immunised against in infancy but most adults would have developed it as a child so have immunity and are not at risk.

Shingles, incidentally, is a ‘re-activation’ of the chicken pox virus but can be passed on to people as chicken pox in the non-immunised. Click here.

If you have not had chicken pox before (i.e. you are not immune) and you are in contact with chicken pox or shingles, then you should consult your GP who will arrange a blood test to check whether or not you need an immunisation injection or even immunoglobulin to soak up the virus if exposed.

 

Cytomegalovirus (CMV)

 

CMV is a rare flu-like infection that can pass from the mother to developing baby via the placenta and in some cases cause congenital defects and disability.

Hand Foot & Mouth Disease (Coxsackie Virus)

 

This is a common virus that exists more in young children (& many adults have developed immunity too). If contracted by a pregnant woman. It slightly increases the chance of miscarriage or stillborn, particularly if contracted in the last trimester.

 

Slap Cheek/Parvovirus B19

 

Again a very common virus seen in young children characterised by a characteristic rash like a slapped cheek seen at the end. Most adults will be immune from previous exposure. If a non immune pregnant woman contracts it there is a slight chance of the growing baby developing anaemia.

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