Prenatal Infection Prevention
One of February’s national health observances is Prenatal Infection Prevention.
We suggest that you learn more, such as through The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (www.cdc.gov ). Some of the infectious agents harmful to unborn babies are: chicken pox (varicella), cytomegalovirus, fifth disease (parvovirus), group B strep, listeria and campylobacter, rubella, toxoplasma, Zika virus. Ask your health care provider about the risks for the specific infections that worry you. Sometimes the risk is for the mother to become extremely ill. Sometimes the mother is not very ill but the baby may suffer developmental problems or death (miscarriage, stillbirth or neonatal death).
Many infections can be avoided through simple protective measures.
MY TOP SIX MEASURES TO PREVENT HARMFUL INFECTIONS DURING PREGNANCY
1. Get your flu shot! Pregnant women are at increased risk for critical illness and death from flu.
2. Keep your hands clean! Wash thoroughly and often. Avoid contact with excrement from cats (litter, garden) and rodents. Wear impervious gloves and a mask if you need to handle animal waste.
3. Avoid exposures to infections from other people, especially CMV and fifth disease, which are viruses common in daycare populations. Consider a mask to prevent inhaling coughed saliva droplets, or gloves to handle wet diapers.
4. Cook foods thoroughly to a temperature of at least 165 degrees and wash fruits and vegetables with lots of water. Do not eat unpasteurized dairy products such as raw milk or cheese.
5. Prevent insect bites by covering with clothing, using insect repellent such as Deet, staying away from high risk areas, and avoiding intimacy with individuals who may have contracted insect-borne illness such as Zika.
6. Talk to your health care provider about testing, vaccinations, and possible illnesses. For example, Group B strep is prevented by antibiotics during labor for women who test positive.
Dr. Rutherford graduated from Washington State University and University of Washington School of Medicine. She is Board Certified in Obstetrics and Gynecology, and Maternal-Fetal Medicine and is a Fellow of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. She was employed by EvergreenHealth, where she has served as founding Medical Director of the Maternal-Fetal Medicine Program and also Medical Director of Women’s and Children’s Services. She is also a past President of the Washington State Obstetrical Association.