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Patient education: Avoiding infections in pregnancy (The Basics)

Patient education: Avoiding infections in pregnancy (The Basics)

Why should pregnant people avoid getting infections? — If you are pregnant, it's important to try to avoid getting infections. This is because if you do get certain infections, they can:

Be worse than they are in people who are not pregnant

Be passed to your unborn baby

Cause problems for your baby after it is born

How might a pregnant person get an infection? — Pregnant people can get infections from different sources, just like everyone else. People can get infections from other people, animals, mosquitoes, and certain foods.

What should I know about vaccines and pregnancy? — Vaccines can prevent certain serious or deadly infections. Some vaccines are safe to get during pregnancy. All pregnant people should get vaccines to prevent:

Influenza (flu) – The flu can cause a fever, chills, muscle aches, cough, or sore throat. Pregnant people are at higher risk of getting very sick if they get the flu.

Tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis – Tetanus causes the muscles to work abnormally. Diphtheria can cause a thick covering in the back of the throat that can lead to breathing problems. Pertussis, also known as "whooping cough," causes a severe cough. Doctors recommend getting the tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis vaccine at 27 to 36 weeks of pregnancy, even if you have gotten it before. Babies who get pertussis can get very sick.

COVID-19 – COVID-19 stands for "coronavirus disease 2019." It is caused by a virus called SARS-CoV-2. Experts have been studying the safety of the COVID-19 vaccine during pregnancy. Based on what they have learned, they recommend that pregnant people get the vaccine. Pregnant people are more likely to get seriously ill if they get COVID-19, so getting vaccinated is especially important.

What other infections can cause problems during pregnancy? — Many other infections can also cause health problems for you and your baby. They include:

Parvovirus, also called "fifth disease" – Parvovirus is spread from person to person. It can cause a rash on the face, chest, back, arms, and legs. It can also cause joint pain and body aches. If you have been around someone who has parvovirus, tell your doctor or nurse. They might do a blood test to check for the infection.

Zika virus – People can get Zika from a mosquito bite in some parts of the world. It's also possible to get Zika through unprotected sex with someone who has the virus. Most people with Zika have no symptoms, or only mild symptoms. Symptoms can include fever, rash, joint pain, and headache. If you are pregnant and were recently in one of the areas where there is Zika, tell your doctor or nurse. Also tell them if you have had unprotected sex with anyone who has (or might have) Zika.

Listeria – Listeria can cause a fever, chills, and back pain. People can get it from eating certain uncooked food. Because of this, most doctors recommend that pregnant people avoid certain foods, such as raw milk, soft cheeses, and deli meats. Your doctor, nurse, or midwife can talk to you about which foods to avoid.

Cytomegalovirus, also called "CMV" – CMV can be spread through sex and through saliva, urine, and other body fluids. It can cause a fever, sore throat, or body aches. Tell your doctor or nurse if you have these symptoms. They might do a blood test to check for CMV.

Toxoplasmosis – People can get toxoplasmosis from eating uncooked meat or by touching cat waste when cleaning a cat's litter box. Toxoplasmosis does not usually cause symptoms in adults.

What can I do to avoid getting an infection? — You can reduce your chance of getting an infection in different ways. You can:

Wash your hands often, especially after preparing food. Also, wash your hands after using the bathroom, changing diapers, gardening, or touching garbage or animals. The table has instructions on how to wash your hands to prevent spreading illness (table 1).

Avoid sharing foods, drinks, or eating utensils with other people

Pay attention to food safety and follow the food safety tips in the table (table 2)

Avoid getting mosquito bites by using bug spray, wearing pants and long-sleeved shirts, and staying inside at dusk

Use a condom when you have sex, if there is a chance that your sex partner has an infection you could catch during sex

Avoid traveling to countries where you could catch serious infections

Avoid touching rats or mice

Avoid cleaning a cat's litter box – If you need to clean a cat's litter box, use gloves and wash your hands afterward.

Make sure that your family members are up-to-date on their vaccines so they stay healthy, too

How are infections in pregnancy treated? — Treatment depends on:

The type of infection

The chance that the infection will be harmful to you

The chance that the infection will harm your unborn baby

If you have an infection, talk to your doctor or nurse about the treatment that is right for you.

More on this topic

Patient education: Vaccines and pregnancy (The Basics)
Patient education: Food poisoning (The Basics)
Patient education: Chlamydia and gonorrhea (The Basics)
Patient education: Animal and human bites (The Basics)
Patient education: Insect bites and stings (The Basics)
Patient education: Staying healthy when you travel (The Basics)
Patient education: Malaria (The Basics)
Patient education: Listeria (The Basics)
Patient education: Vaccines for babies and children age 0 to 6 years (The Basics)
Patient education: Tdap vaccine (The Basics)
Patient education: Vaccines for adults (The Basics)
Patient education: Zika virus infection (The Basics)
Patient education: Erythema infectiosum (fifth disease) (The Basics)
Patient education: Flu (The Basics)
Patient education: Flu vaccine (The Basics)
Patient education: COVID-19 and pregnancy (The Basics)
Patient education: COVID-19 vaccines (The Basics)

Patient education: Vaccination during pregnancy (Beyond the Basics)
Patient education: Gonorrhea (Beyond the Basics)
Patient education: Chlamydia (Beyond the Basics)
Patient education: Group B streptococcus and pregnancy (Beyond the Basics)
Patient education: West Nile virus infection (Beyond the Basics)
Patient education: Foodborne illness (food poisoning) (Beyond the Basics)
Patient education: General travel advice (Beyond the Basics)
Patient education: Animal and human bites (Beyond the Basics)

This topic retrieved from UpToDate on: Jan 02, 2023.
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