February is the month of love, when Mommies and Daddies look forward to a Valentine’s date-night, but you might not know, it is also International Prenatal Infection Prevention Month. As a mom or an expecting mom, the first thing you probably think about when you hear the word "prenatal" is prenatal vitamins. However, “prenatal” technically indicates the stage between conception and birth.
Avoiding prenatal infection begins with education, early detection, and prevention. In 2016, infectious diseases claimed a staggering 2.6 million infants’ lives globally, within their first month of life. While this is an incredibly shocking and sad statistic, there are steps that can be taken to ensure your baby has the healthiest start in life they possibly can.
Infections Transmitted From Mommy To Baby
Infections transmitted from mommy to baby can include viral illness as well as bacteria. This is definitely worrisome, as mommies, we don’t want harm to come to our little ones. Unfortunately, diseases such as rubella, hepatitis, HIV, chickenpox and Cytomegalovirus (CMV) can all be transmitted to baby when in-utero. CMV is a very common sexually transmitted infection (STI) and is often contracted through intercourse, urine, and saliva.
While a low 1 to 4 percent of women that contract CMV, less than half will pass it to the baby. Still, the repercussions are scary. Babies born with CMV end up with a host of problems such as congenital abnormalities or they develop issues later.
Here’s more on how a baby with CMV is at risk:
- Brain, liver, blood, spleen, skin
- Loss of hearing
- Visual impairments
- Delays developmentally
- Intellectual and mental disabilities
Other infections such as the herpes virus don’t cross the placental barrier, meanwhile chickenpox can. In mommy language, this means that your baby can be directly impacted. Chickenpox has the potential to cause birth defects in developing babies. Other infections like coxsackievirus can lead to birth defects as well as inflammation of the heart, brain, and can even lead to encephalomyelitis, which is inflammation of the spinal cord.
Moms infected with viruses of a more serious nature, such as HIV can go on to have a healthy pregnancy, thanks to modern medicine. Though, there’s still a chance that the HIV virus can be transmitted to baby even with drug therapy. In most cases, moms are recommended to feed baby formula as there’s always a small chance baby can get infected with HIV via breast milk. As always, talk to your doctor to learn more about preventative measures you can take to help protect your little one.
Most Common Bacteria Infection: Group B Streptococcus
While this particular bacteria sounds like it’s related to strep throat, it isn’t. One of the most common bacterial infections that can be passed from baby to mom is group B Strep, which is a bacteria that affects 1 in 4 women. So, what is this Strep B bacteria? Group B streptococcus (GBS) is a common bacteria found in the vagina and rectum of pregnant women. Unlike Cytomegalovirus (CMV), group Strep B is not a sexually transmitted infection (STI.) Approximately 25 percent of healthy women carry the Strep B bacteria in their bodies. In the United States, 1 in 2000 babies contract the bacteria through mom. If a newborn baby does test positive for Strep B, these are the symptoms to look out for:
Early Onset GBS Symptoms:
- Pneumonia, meningitis, or sepsis
- Respiratory issues, difficulty breathing
- Kidney, gastrointestinal problems
Yikes, those symptoms sound scary for an adult, let alone a newborn! This is why doctors recommend that all expectant mothers between 35 to 37 weeks get tested for group B Strep bacteria. Intravenous antibiotics are usually given to mom if she tests positive for GBS and are administered during labor to reduce the chances that the bacteria transmits to the baby.
See Your Doctor & Get Tested
Prenatal infection prevention begins with education. Being aware of harmful infections and bacteria that can put mom and baby in danger, is vital. International Prenatal Infection Prevention Month began in the United Kingdom after 250,000 people signed a petition to have the UK Department of Health routinely make testing for GBS and other infections available to expectant mothers. Seeing your doctor and getting tested aids in early prevention and treatment, giving you peace of mind and your new little one the best chance at a healthy start in life!
Medical Disclaimer: Articles are intended for informational purposes only and should not be used as the basis of patient treatment. Ask your medical professional if you have any health-related questions or concerns.