Getting an infection in pregnancy is not rare. A pregnant woman, due to her compromised immunity, is susceptible to infections. Infections during pregnancy are more often caused by either bacteria or viruses. Even though most of the common infections during pregnancy are not likely to harm your baby, some may.
Therefore, it is important to be aware of the infections that can cause complications during pregnancy and ways to avoid them. Common infections during pregnancy range from a common cold that cause no pregnancy complications to rubella that could end up in birth defects and pregnancy loss.
9 Common Infections During Pregnancy You Should Be Aware Of
Some infections like common cold or sore throat are usually not threatening. Most of them can be resolved with simple home remedies and do not cause much discomfort to your progressing pregnancy. But then, it is important to know harmless infections from the ones that can cause serious issues for you and your growing baby. Let’s discuss the most common infections during pregnancy, and whether they are dangerous or not.
1. UTIs during pregnancy
Urinary Tract Infections are one of the most common infections that affect pregnant women. A UTI happens when infectious microbes get in the urethra and bladder, causing inflammation and infection. Women are more prone to UTI.
This is because the microbes from the rectal area and vagina can easily get into the urinary tract. Pregnancy further increases the odds of developing UTI. As the pregnancy progresses as the growing fetus can put pressure on the bladder and urinary tract.
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Therefore, more often than not, pregnant women won’t be able to let out all the urine in the bladder when they pee. Leftover urine becomes a good medium for the microbes to thrive and spread.
Besides, pregnant women’s urine is more concentrated and contains certain hormones and sugar that encourage bacterial growth. If left untreated, the infection can ascend to the kidneys. In that case, a UTI can pose a serious health risk to a pregnant woman and a developing fetus.
2. Cervix infections during pregnancy
The cervix is the lower end of the uterus that connects the vagina and uterus. Cervical infections during pregnancy are common among women who have unprotected sex with an infected partner.
Bacterial imbalance is another reason that causes cervical infections. During pregnancy, due to many reasons, the amount of unhealthy or harmful bacteria in the cervical region can exceed the number of healthy bacteria. This can increase the risk of cervical infection.
Hormonal imbalance is another root cause of cervical infection. When the estrogen level markedly falls or the progesterone level distinctly heightens, it can impinge on the body’s ability to maintain healthy cervical tissue. This, in turn, brings about cervical infections
Even though many bacterial and viral infections can trigger cervical infection, sexually transmitted infections (STI’s) are the main cause.
3. Yeast infections during pregnancy
According to studies, 3 out of 4 women contract yeast infection at some point in their life. If you are wondering if yeast infections are common during pregnancy – here is your answer. Yes.
Yeast infections are common during pregnancy, particularly in the second trimester. This is because hormone changes can disrupt the pH balance of the vagina.
Increased estrogen levels during pregnancy can also disturb the normal balance of yeast and bacteria in the vagina. This, in turn, triggers yeast infection or fungal infection during pregnancy. Yeast infections normally have no harmful effects on the mother. However, a mother can potentially pass the yeast to the baby during delivery.
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4. Group B Streptococcus Infection during pregnancy
Group B Streptococcus (group B strep, GBS) is a kind of bacteria found in the urinary, reproductive, and digestive tracts. It naturally exists in the body. Unlike other bacteria, one can’t contract group B streptococcus through contact.
About 1 out of every 4 women carries GBS in their body but experiences no signs or issues. However, when it comes to pregnant women, GBS can cause urinary tract infections, or infections in the placenta, womb, and amniotic fluid.
If left untreated, GBS during pregnancy may increase the risk of miscarriage and birth defects like hearing or vision loss, though this is rare. Pregnant women may also pass the infection to the baby during labor or delivery.
In this case, due to the underdeveloped immune system of a newborn, Group B streptococcus can be life-threatening for them.
5. Influenza during pregnancy
Influenza (flu) is one of the common infections during pregnancy. According to a source, pregnancy not only increases the risk of contracting flu but also increases the risk of severe symptoms and complications associated with it.
This is because immunity is highly compromised during pregnancy. Besides, the pregnancy hormones temporarily change the way the heart and lungs work. Therefore, many pregnant women who contract flu are seen to develop meningitis, bronchitis, and pneumonia.
More often, pregnant women end up needing to be hospitalization when they experience severe symptoms. Contracting flu during pregnancy can be harmful to the developing baby.
The good news is that flu shots are available that helps to provide good protection against flu during pregnancy. You can discuss this with your doctor
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6. Listeriosis during pregnancy
Listeriosis is a bacterial infection. People contract listeria bacteria most often through contaminated food. Even though listeriosis is not as much of a common infection as other viral and bacterial infections, studies show that pregnant women are 20 times more at risk of contracting the ill effects of listeriosis.
Even though listeria has no harmful effect in normal people, if you fail to detect and treat it promptly, listeria during pregnancy can bring about many serious complications.
This is because once the bacteria get into the bloodstream, they can reach the baby through the placenta. If you fail to initiate treatment at the right time, listeriosis can potentially bring about stillbirth, miscarriage, preterm labor, or meningitis in newborns.
Because of the potentially severe consequences, it is important to take measures to prevent listeriosis during pregnancy.
7. Bacterial vaginosis during pregnancy
Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is a bacterial infection that affects up to 30% of pregnant women every year. Like the mouth and intestines, the vagina also carries various bacteria. BV happens when the bad bacteria in the vagina outnumber the good bacteria.
Studies have provided significant evidence that untreated bacterial vaginosis can lead to pregnancy complications. BV during pregnancy can increase the risk for miscarriage, premature birth, and delivering low birth weight baby.
Moreover, BV can also increase the risk of contracting STI’s (sexually transmitted infections). It is also found that, if left untreated, BV can bring about a premature rupture of membrane, a perilous pregnancy complication.
8. Hepatitis B during pregnancy
Hepatitis B is a serious liver infection caused by the hepatitis B virus which is transmitted through body fluids like blood. Hepatitis B can be easily passed from a pregnant woman to her baby at birth. This can happen during both vaginal delivery and a c-section.
According to studies, gestational hypertension, placenta abruption, fetal growth restriction, and preterm birth are some of the complications associated with severe Hepatitis B infection during pregnancy.
9. Uterine infections during pregnancy
More often uterus infection happens when infectious microbes get into the uterus through the vagina. Untreated vaginal infection may increase the risk of contracting uterine infections. An infection in the uterus during pregnancy can be dangerous for a variety of reasons.
The uterus infection, if not detected and treated promptly, may affect the placenta. This, in turn, can affect the developing fetus. Uterine infections can also cause premature labor or birth defects. It can also make labor more dangerous and difficult.
Signs symptoms of uterine infection during pregnancy include pain in the lower abdomen or pelvis and abnormal or heavy vaginal discharge. Sometimes fever with chills is also found among women with uterine infections.
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How To Avoid Getting An Infection During Pregnancy?
Common infections during pregnancy can bring about many complications during pregnancy. They can even bring about permanent health issues or birth defects in the baby. Therefore it is important to take measures to prevent or reduce the risk of contracting infections during pregnancy.
Following are some steps you can take to avoid getting an infection during pregnancy:
- Maintaining good hygiene is the foremost step to avoid infection during pregnancy. Frequently washing hands with soap and water and using hand sanitizer after using public restrooms will help to avoid getting infected to a significant extend. Wearing a mask is also a vital step to reduce the risk of contracting the infection
- Getting vaccinated is another important step you can take to avoid contracting serious infectious diseases during pregnancy. Talk to your doctor about this
- Eating well-cooked food and avoiding all recipes that demand raw or undercooked, meat, eggs, and fish
- Keep away from unpasteurized milk and milk products
- Most of the common infections during pregnancy are found to spread through direct or indirect contact. Some microbes spread fast through the air. Pregnant women might get infected by merely being in a room with the infected person. Therefore it is important to avoid people who are not well at any cost
- Avoid traveling to areas where you doubt there is an outbreak
- If you have a cat, never try to touch and clean their litter. This way you can avoid contracting one of the serious infections – toxoplasmosis- during pregnancy
- Take all measures not to contract STI s (sexually transmitted infections)
- Try to shield yourself from insects (like mosquitoes) that spread infections.
Can an infection during pregnancy harm the baby?
Most common infections during pregnancy (like skin, urinary tract, and respiratory tract infections) cause no serious problems. However, baby in womb contracts some maternal infections before or during birth.
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Many of these infections can badly affect the baby’s health. While some maternal infections can be life-threatening for babies, some maternal infections can cause permanent damages like hearing loss in babies.
What is the most common prenatal infection?
You can’t point out one most common infection during pregnancy. However, the most common infections that are found in pregnant women are yeast infections, respiratory tract infections (cold, cough, etc), and urinary tract infections (UTI). Even though, if treated promptly, these infections will not harm your pregnancy, they can definitely take a toll on your health.
Infections during pregnancy that cause miscarriage
Here are some infections during pregnancy that are associated with an increased risk of miscarriage.
- Chicken pox
- E. coli
Infections During Pregnancy That Can Cause Birth Defects In Baby
Infections that would typically cause mild or even no symptoms in the mother can have severe consequences on the unborn child. Many maternal infections can potentially cross the placenta to infect the fetus. Here are some of the common infections during pregnancy that can potentially cause birth defects.
1. Zika virus during pregnancy
Mosquitoes are the main carriers of the Zika virus. However, one can catch it through sexual intercourse or blood transfusions as well. Maternal Zika virus infection can even pass to the fetus before or during birth.
A Zika virus infection during pregnancy can cause a birth defect called microcephaly (small head). This more often comes with severe brain defects. Zika virus infection can also cause eye anomalies in the baby.
Rubella virus infection during pregnancy—particularly during the first trimester—is very serious. Common complications include miscarriage, premature delivery, microcephaly, and even death of the fetus. Babies who are born to mothers with severe rubella develop a condition called congenital rubella syndrome.
Congenital rubella syndrome leads to eye, ear, and heart defects it can also bring about permanent issues like incomplete development of the brain, autism, and mental and motor delay in babies.
The good news is MMR vaccination is available against the virus that causes rubella.
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3. Toxoplasmosis during pregnancy
This is an infection that can be contracted through cat feces. Pregnant women more often get infected when they clear cat litter tray. Toxoplasmosis increases the risk of miscarriage and stillbirth
According to studies toxoplasmosis infection during early pregnancy poses a small risk of fetal transmission (less than 6%). However, the rate hikes to 60% and 80% if the infection is contracted in the third trimester.
If transmitted from mother to fetus it can bring about birth defects. It can cause serious and progressive visual and hearing issues in babies. It can also trigger issues related to motor and cognitive skills in babies.
4. Chickenpox during pregnancy
Maternal chickenpox can adversely affect the baby in the womb. However, the risks depend on the timing. If the mother contracts chickenpox during the first 20 weeks of pregnancy (especially in between 8 and 20th week of gestation) the baby may be born with congenital varicella syndrome, a group of severe birth defects.
A baby who has congenital varicella syndrome can develop skin scarring. The baby may also be born with the eye, brain, arms and legs, and gastrointestinal abnormalities.
On the other hand, if the mother contracts chickenpox a few days before the due date, the baby might be born with a potentially life-threatening infection called neonatal varicella.
5. Sexually transmitted diseases
Pregnant women can contract sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) or sexually transmitted infections (STIs). An STI during pregnancy can pose serious health risks for both the mother and her unborn baby. Some most common STIs contracted by pregnant women and the complications it is linked to are listed below:
- Gonorrhea: Gonorrhea is a very common STD among pregnant women. Untreated gonorrhea during pregnancy increases the risk of premature birth, miscarriage, premature rupture of the membranes, and low birth weight. Similarly, a baby who is born while the mother has an active infection can develop blood infections, joint infections, and even blindness
- Chlamydia: Chlamydia during pregnancy increases the risk of miscarriage premature rupture of the membranes, low birth weight, and preterm delivery. When newborns are exposed to this infection, they can develop severe eye infections and pneumonia
- Syphilis: Syphilis during pregnancy is easily passed on to the unborn child. Syphilis can potentially cause a very serious infection in newborns that affects multiple organs that comprise the brain, heart, eyes, ears, teeth, bones, and skin. Syphilis is also connected to premature birth and stillbirth
- Herpes: Herpes infection in pregnant women remains relatively harmless until labor. However, once pregnant women get ready for a vaginal birth, this STI becomes a major issue. Herpes is highly contagious and can infect the infant during vaginal birth
Babies who get infected can develop severe eye issues and severe issues that affect multiple organ systems. A C-section may help to prevent the transmission of herpes to the newborn.
Cytomegalovirus infection (CMV) is one of the most common infections during pregnancy. This virus is present in the environment by nature, and hence it is not easy to resist it.
Maternal CMV increases the risk of congenital CMV in babies at birth. Infected newborns develop yellow skin, rash present at birth, low birth weight, inflammation of the retina, and many long-term neurological issues.
Let’s wrap it up
Pregnancy is a time when you are a lot more vulnerable to infections and illnesses than usual. This means you will have to be extremely vigilant to prevent contracting a dangerous infection that could affect both you and your baby.
While most infections do not show any symptoms or harm the baby, some can be deadly. Even though the risk is low, it is important to watch out and follow some precautions.
If you suspect you have a viral or bacterial infection, call your doctor immediately and get it checked out. Time makes all the difference, and if you do not treat it promptly, some infections can become far more dangerous.
If you do that, you should be safer from infections, and your baby will be protected, too.