The Illnesses to Avoid During Pregnancy

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Every expectant mother will want to ensure their baby is safe and healthy during pregnancy. Yet, various infections could lead to pregnancy complications, such as pre-term birth, illness, or disabilities. For this reason, you must stay away from people with the following infections and seek medical treatment if you develop any symptoms. Check out the following illnesses to avoid during pregnancy. 

Chickenpox 

Pregnant women must avoid coming into contact with adults or children who have a chickenpox infection, as it is one of the recommended illnesses to avoid during pregnancy. The highly contagious condition is dangerous for an expectant mum and her baby. Speak to a GP or midwife as soon as possible if you develop an infection. 

If you have had chickenpox in the past, you’re likely immune to it. However, you will be at greater risk if you’ve never had. Even if you can’t remember if you’ve had it in the past, you must avoid contact with people who have the infection. If you’re worried, your GP or midwife can organise a blood test to identify if you’re immune to chickenpox. 

Slapped Cheek Syndrome 

Slapped cheek syndrome is a virus that typically affects children and causes a rash on a child or baby’s face. If you have had contact with someone infected with the highly infectious virus, you must book an appointment with your doctor ASAP. 

A blood test cab identify if you’re immune. If you have slapped cheek syndrome, it is likely your baby will be unaffected, but it can be harmful. 

Rubella (German Measles) 

Rubella, also known as German measles, is no longer common in the UK due to the rollout of the MMR vaccination. However, the infection still exists, and it can be harmful during the first three months of pregnancy, as it can cause miscarriage or birth defects. 

If you develop a spotty rash or symptoms, know someone who has a rash or symptoms, or had contact with someone who has rubella, get in touch with your GP or midwife immediately. While the rash might not be rubella, a simple blood test can identify if you’re carrying the infection. 

You’re likely protected from the infection if you have had the MMR vaccine. If you’re unsure if you’ve had the vaccine, your GP practice can review your vaccination history. If you haven’t had the vaccine, you can have it during your six-week postnatal check, following the birth of your baby, as it can provide protection during a future pregnancy. 

Zika Virus 

While the Zika virus isn’t a common health issue in the UK, you can catch it if you or a loved one have visited: 

  • The Caribbean 
  • Southeast Asia 
  • Central or South America 
  • The Pacific Region 

It is a wise move to avoid traveling to destinations to high-risk Zika virus areas, as the infection can cause various birth defects if caught when pregnant, such as an abnormally small head. 

Hepatitis B 

Pregnant women infected with hepatitis B can pass the infection onto their babies. The harmful virus is typically spread during sexual intercourse with an infected sexual partner when they don’t use a condom. However, you can also catch hepatitis B through infected blood. 

There are no hepatitis B symptoms, and you may not know you have the virus until you receive the results from a routine blood test during pregnancy. If you test positive for hepatitis B, your baby will receive the hepatitis B vaccine at birth to prevent the infection and liver disease. 

Hepatitis C 

Hepatitis C is transmitted from one person to another via infected blood and can infect a person’s liver. People who take illegal drugs are more likely to have hepatitis C, as they may share contaminated needles. However, people who had a blood transfusion before September 1991, or received blood products before 1986, will have a greater risk of hepatitis C. 

Also, it is possible to catch hepatitis C following medical or dental treatment in nations where it is common or due to poor infection control standards. However, you can catch the infection during sexual intercourse with an infected person. 

If you have hepatitis C, there is a chance you may ass it onto your baby, but the risk is much lower than the likes of HIV or hepatitis B. Your newborn can receive a hepatitis C test following birth, and they will be referred for a specialist assessment if they have an infection. 

Toxoplasmosis 

Pregnant women must avoid contact with cat faeces, as it can contain toxoplasma, an organism that could harm your baby. Minimise your risk by avoiding entering a cat litter tray or using rubber gloves if you need to do so. 

Also, avoid contact with a poorly cat, and you must use gardening gloves when near soil, as the cat might have used the bathroom outdoors. If you suspect you have come into contact with cat faeces, you must immediately wash your hands thoroughly. 

It is important to note that sheep and lambs also carry toxoplasma. Contact your doctor if you develop flu-like symptoms after spending time with a sheep or lamb. 

Hepatitis E 

While more research is needed, it is believed pigs could be a source of hepatitis E, which can be dangerous during pregnancy. Avoid a potential infection by cooking meat thoroughly, avoiding raw or undercooked meat or shellfish, and washing your hands before prepping, serving, and eating. 

Cytomegalovirus (CMV) 

Cytomegalovirus is a virus from the herpes group, which can cause chickenpox and cold sores, and it is common in small children. Pregnant women must avoid a CMV infection, as it can lead to various issues for an unborn baby, such as learning difficulties, blindness, or epilepsy. If you have never had CMV before, the infection can be more dangerous for a baby.  

While there is no guaranteed way to prevent infection, you can lower your risk of CMV by regularly washing your hands with soap and hot water, avoiding kissing your children on the face, and don’t share cutlery, glassware or food with your kids. 

Group B Streptococcus (GBS) 

In most cases, GBS will not pose a risk to a pregnant mother or her unborn baby. However, a small number of babies can experience the infection, which can cause a serious illness.  

Your baby is more likely to catch the infection if a pregnant mother: 

  • Carries the GBS infection 
  • Goes into premature labour 
  • Has a fever during labour 
  • Waters break early 

Women who have had a baby with a GBS infection will likely receive antibiotics when in labour, as it will decrease the likelihood of their next baby catching the infection. Also, you might be prescribed antibiotics if you have had a group B strep infection during your pregnancy. 

HIV 

All pregnant mothers are offered an HIV test during pregnancy, and your midwife or doctor can provide in-depth details about the test if required. If you receive a positive test, you can attend counseling to come to terms with the diagnosis.  

If you do test positive for HIV, it is natural you will fear for your baby’s health. However, if you have good health and no symptoms of an HIV infection, you can enjoy a safe pregnancy and labour. Yet, it is important to be aware that HIV can be passed to an unborn baby during pregnancy, labour, and breastfeeding. It’s for this reason why your midwife will advise you not to breastfeed your baby. Your doctor and midwife will take every possible step to lower the risk of infection to your baby. 

As you can see, there are many illnesses to avoid during pregnancy. As scary as they might sound, there are ways to prevent an infection. If you develop one of the above issues, your midwife or doctor can create effective management plans to protect you and your unborn baby. If you have any questions regarding illnesses to avoid during pregnancy, talk to your midwife or doctor for more detailed information. 

READ NEXT >>> What is Gestational Diabetes? 

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