10 Common Infections During Pregnancy
You have probably heard about infections in pregnant woman. Do you know which ones are the most common infections during pregnancy, and what symptoms to look for? Are there any risks to you and your baby from such infections? Although your baby is protected from many illnesses while in the womb. there are some infections that can be harmful to your pregnancy and/or your baby. Even with all the safeguards put in place, handwashing is still your first line of defense against any infection. Here are 10 infections you could encounter during pregnancy and the possible symptoms.
Common Infections During Pregnancy and How They Can Affect My Baby
1. Bacterial Vaginosis (BV)
Bacterial Vaginosis is an overgrowth of bacteria in the vagina. It has been linked to low birth weights and preterm births. Symptoms include a grey or white discharge that has a foul or fishy smell, itching, and burning while urinating. BV is treated with antibiotics. Symptoms include a foul or fishing smelling discharge, itching, and burning when passing. Some women are asymptomatic.
2. Cytomegalovirus (CMV)
While common, CMV can cause illness in mothers infected during pregnancy. Infection in infants can cause hearing loss, vision loss, and other disabilities. There is no treatment at this time. Studies are looking at antiviral drugs and a vaccine is in the works. Symptoms include fever, sore throat, swollen glands, and fatigue. Some women are asymptomatic.
3. Group B Strep (GBS)
Group B strep is a type of bacteria often found in the vagina and rectum of healthy women. 25% of women develop it. GBS usually is not harmful but can be deadly to your baby if passed during childbirth. By getting tested at 35 to 37 weeks, you can keep from passing it on to your baby. This involves swabbing the vagina and rectum and it should not be painful. If you do test positive for GBS, an antibiotic will be given during labor to protect the baby from infection. It is very important to let the staff know that you have Group B strep when arriving at your birthing place. There are no symptoms.
4. Hepatitis B Virus (HBV)
Hepatitis B is a viral infection that can be passed to the baby during birth. Newborns who get infected have a 90% chance of developing a lifelong infection. This can lead to liver damage and liver cancer. There are two main prevention measures you can take. First, a vaccine can keep newborns from getting HBV. Second, mothers can protect their babies for life from HBV with the hepatitis B vaccine. That is a series of three shots. The first is given to the baby at birth and the second is given to the baby at 1-2 months old. Finally, the third is given at 6 months (but not before 24 weeks old). There are often no symptoms. However, some may be present such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, dark urine, pale bowel movements, whites of eyes, or yellow skin. Labs can determine if you are a carrier of hepatitis B.
Listeriosis is an infection with the harmful bacteria called listeria. It is found in some refrigerated and ready-to-eat foods. Infection can cause early delivery or miscarriage. Antibiotics are the course of treatment. Symptoms include fever, muscle aches, chills. Sometimes diarrhea or nausea. Furthermore, if it progresses it can cause severe headaches and even a stiff neck. That being said there are foods you want to avoid and you probably heard of some of them: cold-cuts, cured meats, smoked fish, shellfish, blue and mold-ripened cheeses, pate, pre-packaged sandwiches, and salads.
6. Parvovirus B19 (aka Fifth Disease)
Most pregnant women who are infected with Parvovirus B19 or Fifth Disease do not have serious problems. But there is a small chance the virus can infect your baby. This raises the risk of miscarriage during the first 20 weeks of pregnancy. Fifth disease can cause severe anemia in women who have red blood cell disorders like sickle cell disease or immune system problems. There is no specific treatment, except for possible blood transfusions for people with red blood cell disorders or who are immune suppressed. Nonetheless, there is no vaccine for this virus. The symptoms include low-grade fever, fatigue, rash on face, trunk, and limbs, painful and swollen joints.
7. Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI)
Those are infections passed through sexual contact. Many STIs can be passed to the baby in the womb or during birth. Some effects include stillbirth, low birth weight, and life-threatening infections. STIs also can cause a woman’s water to break early or preterm labor. Treatments vary depending on the STI. Many STIs are treated easily with antibiotics. Symptoms also depend on the STI. Importantly, a woman often has no symptoms. That is why screening for STIs during pregnancy is so important.
Toxoplasmosis is caused by a parasite found in cat feces, dirt, and raw or undercooked meat. If an infection is passed on to your baby it can cause hearing loss, blindness, or intellectual disabilities. It is particularly important that you always wash your hands and utensils with soap after touching dirt or raw meat. Moreover, be sure to wash produce before eating, always cook meat thoroughly, and have someone else care for litter boxes for the duration of your pregnancy. Toxoplasmosis sometimes presents mild flu-like symptoms but may present no symptoms at all. There are different medications available for the treatment depending on what stage during your pregnancy you test positive.
9. Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)
Between 2 and 10% of women experience a UTI during pregnancy. If left untreated, a UTI can spread to the kidneys, which can cause preterm labor. Some of the symptoms include pain or burning when urinating, frequent urination, pelvis, back, stomach, or side pain, shaking, chills, fever, sweats. Treatment consists of antibiotics.
10. Yeast Infection
Yeast infection is an overgrowth of bacteria, which unfortunately is very common. Fortunately, they do not threaten the health of the baby. To treat this type of infection you can just use a vaginal cream and suppositories. Symptoms include extreme itchiness in and around the vagina, burning, redness, swelling of the vagina and the vulva, pain when passing urine or during sex. You can also experience a thick, white vaginal discharge that looks like cottage cheese and does not have a smell foul.
In sum, don’t take chances and remember to:
- Wash your hands frequently,
- Don’t eat raw or undercooked meat,
- Don’t share food or drinks with other people
- Talk to your doctor about vaccinations,
- Don’t empty cat litter.
If you are pregnant currently of planning to be soon, find out the main questions about the impact of COVID-19 during pregnancy. We will go over infection prevention in more depth in my birth coaching program and online doula planning.
Prevention is key when it comes to infections. Good hygiene and smart healthy choices can avoid the above infections during pregnancy and improve the chances of a healthy baby.
The information contained on this site should not be construed as medical advice nor should it replace the advice and individual care of your health care provider.
Hi, I’m Susan Finazzo! I’m a certified Birth Doula, Birth coach, and Childbirth Educator from Port St Lucie, Florida. In addition to that, I am also a Faith-Based Counselor. I have over 10 years experience helping women having a positive birthing experience and would love to make a difference on yours too!