Although February is more commonly known for Valentine’s Day, this month also marks International Prenatal Infection Prevention Month which aims to raise awareness of how to prevent mothers and babies from contracting infectious diseases. Prevention is always the best practice, so having some initial awareness goes a long way.
Group Strep B
While Strep B is a normal bacteria that usually doesn’t have symptoms or side effects, during pregnancy it’s important to be more conscious of the bacteria.
Strep B is most commonly found living in the gut, the vagina, and the rectum. It’s thought that around 25% of women carry this bacteria. While strep B bacteria is harmless and normal, it can be dangerous if passed onto a newborn during delivery.
It’s not a sexually transmitted disease and if you happen to be carrying Strep B, treatment of you or your partner isn’t necessary. However, if you are pregnant, it’s important to be aware of Group Strep B and how you might be able to prevent transferring it to your baby. If you are a carrier of the bacteria, there’s a chance you will pass it on to your baby around the time of labor.
The number one cause of infection of babies of under 3 months, Group Strep B is also the number one cause of meningitis and sepsis in a newborn’s first seven days.
The bacteria can cause a late miscarriage, stillbirth, as well as long-term mental and physical issues like cerebral palsy in your baby. It’s always better to prevent rather than cure, in this case the best way to do so is to ask your health provider about an ECM test which can detect if you’re a carrier of the bacteria.
It’s usually recommended to take this test at around 35 to 37 weeks as to indicate whether you’ll be carrying the bacteria for the following five weeks when you’re most likely to go into labor.
If the ECM test results come back as positive, you’ll be offered intravenous antibiotics from the beginning of labor until delivery.
While group B Strep is a leading cause of prenatal infections, severe cases are rare. However, it’s always best to be cautious and try to prevent passing the bacteria onto your baby.
Keeping your vaccines up to date preconception, during pregnancy, and postpartum is the best way to reduce the risk of passing on preventable diseases to your baby.
Before conception, it’s always recommendable that you make sure you’re up to date with all of your booster vaccines. All of those vaccines you had as a child like polio, measles, hepatitis B, rubella, and mumps should all be up to date before becoming pregnant. Your doctor will be able to advise you which vaccines you should receive before pregnancy and which vaccines might be better to avoid.
Once pregnant, in order to reduce prenatal risks for both you and your baby, you should have the flu vaccine, regardless of the trimester, since catching the flu during pregnancy increases the risk of premature birth.
Make sure that you also have the Tdap (tetanus, diptheria and pertussis) vaccine with each pregnancy. This vaccine also helps the transfer of antibodies to the baby before birth and is highly recommended since newborns are unable to directly receive vaccines containing pertussis.
Following pregnancy, postpartum vaccines are still highly recommended for both the mother and baby. Keeping up to date with your vaccines will prevent you from contracting a preventable disease and passing it on to your baby.
Good hygiene choices
Lots of prenatal infections can be prevented with good pregnancy hygiene habits. During pregnancy, it’s important that you are your healthiest and taking precautions to prevent both you and your baby from coming into unnecessary contact with infectious diseases.
Make sure to wash your hands regularly, particularly when you’ve been out in public places as well as after being around others who might be unwell. This will help keep you safe from lots of common bacterial infections like salmonella, listeria, and the flu.
If you have any vacations planned, make sure you’re well informed about any vaccines you might need before traveling or any other precautions you might need to take. Avoid being bitten by mosquitoes by using repellents suitable for pregnancy as well as netting for when you’re sleeping. Mosquitos carry lots of harmful illnesses like malaria, dengue and zika, so make sure you’re well prepared and have talked through any concerns you might have with your health care provider before leaving the country.
Know which foods to avoid
While pregnancy can lead to all sorts of different food cravings, keep you and your baby safe and free from illness by knowing what you can and can not eat.
Don’t eat any kind of soft cheese with white rinds like camembert, brie, and soft goat’s cheese like chevre. Blue cheeses like Roquefort and gorgonzola should also be avoided unless cooked thoroughly. These cheeses contain more moisture which can make them a breeding ground for harmful bacteria. Sometimes resulting in listeriosis, even a mild case of the illness can result in stillbirth, miscarriage, or an unwell baby.
Never eat raw or undercooked meat due to the risk of being infected with Toxoplasmosis, a parasite found in meat. While this parasite is rare, it’s best to be aware and safe.
In order to ensure the best for you and your baby, sure you’re doing everything you can to remain healthy and prevent the spread of disease. Make it a habit to stick to your regular prenatal appointments so you can talk through any issues or concerns with your health provider in good time. Looking for a new health care provider? Feel free to schedule an appointment with us!