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Prenatal Infections and How to Prevent Them

At Greenville OB/GYN, we’re committed to keeping you and your developing baby healthy throughout your pregnancy. February is Prenatal Infection Prevention Month, so we’d like to share some key facts and tips to help you protect yourself and your unborn child. 

Prenatal infections include a wide range of bacterial and viral illnesses that can be transmitted from a mother to her baby during pregnancy or delivery. Serious health problems can result from these infections. This is just another reason that receiving the right prenatal care is essential.

How Prenatal Infections Can Affect Pregnancies

Pregnancy causes changes in hormone levels and immune system functions. These changes make expectant mothers more susceptible to infections. Even mild infections can lead to serious illnesses and labor complications.

Babies can be adversely affected by prenatal infections in many unfortunate ways. Brain development may be impacted by maternal infection and could result in learning disorders, hearing loss, and other lifelong disabilities. Studies have also shown that prenatal infections can lead to an increased risk of central nervous system disorders such as autism and cerebral palsy. Birth defects are also possible.

Common Types of Prenatal Infections

The list of prenatal infections that can cause serious complications is a long one. Here are a few of the most common:

  • Bacterial Vaginosis: This common infection elevates the risk of contracting STIs and can lead to preterm labor. Bacterial vaginosis is caused by a change in the balance of bacteria that live in the vagina, and unprotected sex can increase the risk of contracting it.
  • Cytomegalovirus (CMV): A pregnant woman may not know she has this common and easily-spread virus, but it can cause serious congenital health problems. Some of these issues, which might include hearing loss, seizures, or intellectual disabilities, can develop in infancy or later in childhood.
  • Listeria or Listeriosis: This serious type of infection is caused by eating contaminated food and can lead to preterm birth, pregnancy loss, and deadly infections for newborns. The bacteria that causes listeria is most often found in soft cheeses and raw milk, but has also been identified in fresh and frozen produce.
  • Streptococcus (Group B): The bacteria in this group live in our gastrointestinal and gential tracts. Most of the time these bacteria aren’t harmful, but they can cause sepsis, pneumonia, and meningitis in newborns.

Tips for Preventing Prenatal Infections

Thankfully, there are some easy ways to protect yourself and your unborn child from prenatal infections. Here are some preventive methods we at Greenville OB/GYN suggest:

  • Wash Your Hands: This is good advice at all times, but especially during pregnancy. Be sure to wash your hands with warm water and soap after using the bathroom, preparing and eating food, touching pets, or being around anyone who is sick.
  • Avoid Unpasteurized Milk: It’s always a good idea to check food labels. Unpasteurized milk and foods made from it can cause listeria. Be sure to avoid soft cheeses such as feta and brie.
  • Stay Away From Cat Litter: Dirty cat litter sometimes contains harmful parasites. If you have to clean out a litter box, make sure to wear gloves and wash your hands thoroughly afterward.
  • Ask About Vaccinations: There are certain vaccinations you can receive throughout your pregnancy and directly after delivery that can keep you and your baby healthy. 

Make sure you’re doing everything you can to avoid prenatal infections and the problems they can cause. The caring professionals here at Greenville OB/GYN will be with you every step of the way.