Protecting babies from infection during pregnancy

Sunday Signal

Pregnancy is a happy time for women and their partners. While the physical challenges of pregnancy can be difficult, many women overcome such challenges by working with their physicians and reminding themselves that they will soon have a newborn baby to hold and love.

No woman wants to imagine complications during a pregnancy. However, preparing in advance for certain issues, including prenatal infections, can make them easier to confront should they arise.

Group B Strep International, a nonprofit organization that promotes awareness and prevention of Group B Strep disease in babies from before birth through early infancy, notes that adhering to the acronym HYGIENE can be an effective way to prevent infections during pregnancy.

H Handwashing helps

Routine handwashing is a simple and effective way to reduce the risk of prenatal infection. Wash hands with soap and water for at least  20 seconds after gardening or coming into contact with soil or sand. Once a child is born, wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds after changing a diaper, feeding a child and/or wiping a young child’s nose or drool.

Y Yes to prenatal care

Prioritizing prenatal care is another effective way to prevent prenatal infection. Women should request that their urine be cultured for bacteria at their first prenatal visit and should see their physicians immediately if any symptoms of vaginitis appear. Physicians will discuss and may recommend various tests during a pregnancy, and women should not hesitate to ask any questions they have regarding these tests.

G Good food prepared safely

The right foods can nourish growing babies and reduce the risk for prenatal infections. Heed physicians’ recommendations on foods to avoid during a pregnancy, which will likely include, but is not limited to, unpasteurized milk and cheese made from unpasteurized milk. Make sure all meat and poultry is thoroughly cooked. When handling food, make sure to peel or wash fruits and vegetables and store raw meat separately from other foods. Thoroughly wash all surfaces, including countertops and cutting boards, after contact with raw meat, poultry, seafood, and unwashed fruits and vegetables.

I Immunizations

Women also can reduce prenatal infection risk by making sure they are current with their immunizations. Ask your physician if you are immune to rubella and chickenpox, each of which can cause stillbirth or serious birth defects. The vaccinations for these conditions cannot be administered during pregnancy, so if you are not immune, avoid contact with anyone infected with either virus.

E Evade others’ bodily fluids

Steer clear of others’ bodily fluids, including saliva, urine, blood, and semen, which may contain germs that can compromise the health of your baby. Avoid sharing drinks, utensils and toothbrushes with young children, as women are most commonly exposed to certain prenatal infections through the saliva and urine of young children.

N No to unnecessary invasive procedures

Some germs can cross intact membranes, so avoid unnecessary, frequent or forceful internal exams that can push germs closer to the fetus. Women are advised to discuss stripping membranes with their physicians early in pregnancy so they can make the most informed decisions possible.

E Environmental precautions

Certain environmental precautions, such as walking in the center of trails to avoid ticks and wearing gloves while gardening, can reduce the risk of prenatal infections. Women also should avoid changing cat litter and make sure there are no areas of standing water, which attracts mosquitoes, around their homes. (MC)  

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