Did you know that February is International Prenatal Infection Prevention Month? Most people don’t; with Groundhog’s Day, Valentine’s Day, and President’s Day it’s easy to forget. Despite everything else going on, prenatal infection prevention is incredibly important to think about not only during the month of February but throughout a pregnancy.
According to the CDC, infection accounts for 12.5% of deaths in pregnant and postpartum mothers and 36% of newborn deaths. Infections are passed from the mother to the baby during pregnancy or delivery. Luckily, there are many preventative steps that can be taken to protect both the mother and baby.
A great way to help prevent infections is to be sure you are up to date on your vaccines. Before getting pregnant it is recommended that you have all the booster shots such as polio, measles, and hepatitis B. It is also important to double-check that you are up to date on the Tdap vaccine; this helps the transfer of antibodies to the baby.
Another way to help prevent infection is to be mindful of what you are eating. Certain soft cheeses can be a breeding ground for bacteria that can result in listeriosis. While you may just end up with a 12-hour bathroom stint, food poisoning can be especially harmful to your unborn child, so do not eat any raw or undercooked meats. Additionally, avoid any unpasteurized milk and foods, as they can contain harmful bacteria.
Group B Strep is also a bacterium that can be harmful to the baby. 25% of women carry this type of bacteria but do not feel sick. Towards the end of your pregnancy, your healthcare provider can perform a swab test to determine if you are a carrier of this bacteria. If the swab test comes back positive, your healthcare provider will talk to you about how to protect you and the baby during labor and delivery.
Finally, be sure to practice good hygiene while pregnant. Wash your hands often and avoid touching your face when you cannot wash your hands. Research any vacation spots for potential viruses such as malaria or zika, and avoid those who are sick.
There are a lot of potential risks to you and your baby during pregnancy and after delivery, but with the right preventative measures in place, and armed with knowledge, you’ll be better able to prepare and prevent prenatal infections.