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Protecting Your Baby from Infections

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Protecting Your Baby from Infections

If you’ve been exposed to certain infections during pregnancy, you may need to have tests and treatment to help protect your unborn baby.

Chickenpox

Chickenpox can cause serious problems for you and your baby during pregnancy. If you’ve already had chickenpox, your body would normally have become immune to it so that if you are exposed again you won’t get sick. A blood test can show whether or not you are immune. However, if you think you may have come into contact with chickenpox, tell your doctor or midwife.

Rubella (German Measles)

Rubella can cause serious problems for unborn babies during pregnancy. A blood test can show whether you are immune. If you are not immune and you suspect you may have been exposed, see your midwife or doctor. They will run some tests to see if you or your baby are affected.

Group B Streptococcus (GBS)

About 15% of women have GBS in their vagina. This bacterium does not cause any symptoms or problems for the woman. However, it can be passed to babies during labour and in rare cases it can cause a serious infection in newborn babies.

You may be recommended intravenous antibiotics to protect your baby if you are known to have GBS and you:

  • Are in established labour
  • Have a fever
  • Go into labour prematurely.

If your water breaks but you aren’t in labour your healthcare professional may recommend you be induced to reduce the risk of your baby becoming ill from the infection.

Genital Herpes

There is a higher risk of infecting the baby if you have your first outbreak during pregnancy.

  • Tell your doctor or healthcare professional if you or your partner have genital herpes
  • While medications can supress symptoms, the virus stays in your system so symptoms can return
  • If you have an outbreak when labour begins doctors may advise you to have a caesarean to prevent your baby from getting ill.

Toxoplasmosis

This parasite is found in cat faeces and raw or undercooked meat. It generally causes mild, flu-like symptoms (fever, swollen glands), however during pregnancy it can seriously affect your unborn baby.

Precautions to take:

  • Avoid contact with cats and do not empty cat litter trays
  • Wear gloves when gardening and wash hands afterwards
  • Cook meat thoroughly
  • Wash hands after handling raw meat.

If you think you may have been infected, talk with your midwife or doctor to organise a blood test to check. Antibiotics may also be prescribed.

Parvovirus (Slapped Cheek Disease)

In rare cases, this normally mild childhood disease can cause problems for your unborn baby. Symptoms include: a red rash on the cheeks, fever, and sometimes joint pain.

If you think you may have been exposed see your doctor. Even if you have been exposed, most babies will not be harmed by the infection.

HIV

The HIV virus can be transmitted to your baby during labour and also via breastfeeding. Most hospitals antenatal clinics will offer testing for the virus in pregnancy. If you test positive, doctors can take steps to keep you in good health and reduce the risk of transmission to your baby.

Remember: If you are worried or have any health care concerns, contact your healthcare professional.

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