Prenatal Infection Awareness

The International Prenatal Infection Awareness campaign is an initiative aimed to educate pregnant women on how to prevent infection and keep their unborn babies safe and healthy.

Infections during pregnancy are one of the top risk factors for premature labour, and many are preventable. Some common infections include Group B streptococcus, chickenpox, toxoplasmosis and fifth disease.

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Group B streptococcus Also know as group B strep, this bacterial infection is harmless in adults, but can lead to pneumonia, meningitis or a blood infection in newborns. Most women will be tested during the second half of their pregnancy for infection and, if it is detected, IV antibiotics can be administered during labour and delivery.

Chickenpox It’s a common viral infection that affects most children, but a vaccine is given to most at about 18 months then again at four years of age. If you’re thinking of becoming pregnant, and aren’t sure about your vaccination history, you can have a simple blood test to check your immunity. If you’re not immune and not pregnant, the vaccine can be administered. However, if you are not immune and currently pregnant, it is safest to stay away from anyone with chickenpox until your baby is born. It can be critical for a foetus if its mother catches chickenpox during or after her twentieth week of pregnancy.

Toxoplasmosis This common infection can be very dangerous for an unborn baby, causing serious conditions such as blindness and brain damage. If you are pregnant, there are several things you can do to prevent toxoplasmosis, including not eating undercooked meats, peeling and washing raw fruits and vegetables before eating, washing your hands thoroughly and immediately after handling raw meat, and avoiding changing of kitty litter boxes.

Fifth disease About half the population is infected by this common childhood illness whose most common symptom is a rash on a child’s face. Less common ones are fever, sore throat, headache and joint pain. Most unborn babies are not harmed if the mother is infected while pregnant, although, because it is transmitted by blood, there is a chance it could be transferred through the placenta. For that small percentage, there’s an even slimmer chance of foetal anaemia, inflammation of the baby’s heart, miscarriage or stillbirth. Pregnant women can prevent the infection by washing their hands thoroughly and by not sharing drinking glasses with anyone infected with the illness.

Handy anti-infection tips

 Always wash your hands, after:

  • Using the bathroom;

  • Gardening or touching soil;

  • Being around sick people; and

  • Changing nappies.

If you have any concerns, see your obstetrician or doctor.