Infections during pregnancy that may be minor for the mother can have serious consequences for the developing baby, according to Stephen Daniel, MD, with Gundersen Palmer Lutheran Family Medicine in West Union.
February is International Prenatal Infection Prevention Month.
Daniel recommended that mothers and other members of their household stay current on vaccines.
Persons would need to discuss whether another vaccine is needed with their provider, taking into account length of time between vaccinations and which vaccinations they received.
Vaccines that help the immune system fight tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis, influenza, and COVID should be current, per Dr. Daniel.
COVID during pregnancy will tend to have a lot of the same symptoms as other upper respiratory infections, he noted.
“Any respiratory infections like COVID could also affect the baby because babies’ oxygenation is dependent on mothers’,” Dr. Daniel said.
Lack of oxygenation, Daniel said, could cause developmental delays, growth restrictions, and “could potentially lead to loss of pregnancy.”
“It seems pregnant people are more likely to get more seriously ill if they get the COVID virus,” he said.
So getting vaccinated is important, he said.
“Make sure family members are also vaccinated to help the mother,” Daniel said.
If someone in the household does get sick, he recommended frequent hand-washing as “probably the best way to prevent sharing illness.”
“With regards to infections, it’s important to wash hands often, after preparing food, changing a diaper, using the bathroom, or touching animals,” he said. “Avoid sharing food or drink. Avoid cleaning cat litter boxes.”
“It would be ok to try to isolate if possible,” he said.
Infection prevention during pregnancy should focus not only on the upper body but also the lower.
“There are several vaginal infections that are common during pregnancy and need to be addressed. We screen for those during pregnancy. They need to be treated,” Daniel said.
Among them, yeast infection, group B strep, or any sort of urinary infection “also needs to be treated,” he said.
“Infections in the vaginal area would potentially cause bleeding or infection to the baby if there is damage,” Daniel said.
“For instance, group B strep has been shown to cause — not very serious disease in mothers — but it can be very serious in newborns,” he said.
This is because the baby’s immune system is not developed yet, he said.
It’s more rare, he said, but germs can also travel through the blood: “You certainly need to be careful of bloodstream infections, for sure.”
“Using a condom would be a great idea. Avoiding STIs would be important, especially during pregnancy,” he said.
Even for married couples, or partners who have been tested, he recommended this prophylactic.
“It can be for married. If there’s a chance for infection, a condom is the only type of control that can prevent transmission of infection,” Daniel said.
This is because a condom is a fluid-barrier, he confirmed.
If any questions or concerns come up, persons may contact their primary care provider.
“Not all medications are safe during pregnancy, so if there are questions about that, ask as well,” Daniel said. “If you are taking any sort of medication, or thinking about starting a new one, we’d like to know about it.”
The best vitamin to take would be a prenatal multivitamin. Before taking other vitamins, talk to your provider, he said.