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Infections During Pregnancy: Types, Risks And Prevention

A woman's body must be in optimal health during the pregnancy period. While this can be effortlessly achieved by a balanced diet accompanied by a healthy lifestyle, some issues can still arise.

Pregnancy can make women more susceptible to certain infections and make these infections worse, posing a risk to the mother and the foetus [1]. During pregnancy, the immune system weakens to let the foetus grow inside the womb, thereby increasing a pregnant woman's risk of developing infections.

The weakened immune system paves the way for many infections. These infections during pregnancy might sometimes prove fatal for both the mother and the baby [2]. But if diagnosed at an early stage, they can be cured. Let us consider the symptoms and risks involved in infection during pregnancy to avoid any such pregnancy risks.

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Infections During Pregnancy

1. Urinary Tract Infection

A Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) is generally a bacterial infection developed in the urinary system. If not treated properly on time, the infection can also reach your kidneys. There are no major pregnancy risks involved here. But your child might have a premature birth or may even be born underweight. If you have pain in your pelvis or a problem while urinating, consult your doctor as it is completely curable by medicines and proper care [3].

2. German Measles (rubella)

German measles or rubella, if developed during pregnancy, can result in major health complications. It has high pregnancy risks as it can even lead to miscarriage if developed in the first eleven weeks of pregnancy [4]. If you have developed flu-like symptoms, pinkish-red rash on any body part, infected eyes and so on, then go for a medical consultation immediately.

The baby might also develop congenital rubella syndrome (CRS) in the first three months of pregnancy. Getting vaccination one month before trying to conceive is the best prevention to avoid an infection [5].

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3. Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is a viral disease. It gets transmitted through body fluids like blood, saliva or semen, and is described as the inflammation of the liver. Flu symptoms such as loss of appetite or stomach cramps might be the indications of Hepatitis B. It is better to go for a blood test if you are experiencing any of these. There are chances of passing on the disease to the child during pregnancy [6].

4. Swine Flu

Swine flu infection can lead to pregnancy complications. It spreads via the H1N1 virus through the cough and sneeze of infected people [7]. The symptoms of swine flu are like ordinary flu, such as sudden fever, tiredness, cough, headache etc.

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5. Vaginitis

Vaginitis is described as various disorders that cause infection or inflammation of the vagina [8]. These infections conditions develop from an infection caused by organisms such as bacteria, yeast, or viruses.

6. Chicken Pox

Symptoms like drowsiness, a severe skin rash on your body or breathing problems are indications of chickenpox. In most cases, it does not prove fatal to the baby. In some cases, the mother develops pneumonia. If developed in the first trimester of pregnancy, it is entirely curable.

7. Postpartum Infections

Also known as childbed fever and puerperal fever, postpartum infections are any bacterial infections of the female reproductive tract following childbirth or miscarriage. These types of infections are observed after pregnancy [9].

Why Are Pregnant Women At The Risk Of Infections?

The changes in hormone levels and immune system function can make the woman vulnerable to infections and severe complications during pregnancy. The changes in the immune system are facilitated by the female body to protect both the mother and the baby, and while some parts of the immune system are enhanced while others are suppressed [10]. Although there is a balance of protective mechanisms in the body, the immune system needs to work in double capacity to protect both the mother and the baby. This, in turn, can make the mother susceptible to certain infections [11].

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The other reason for increased risk during pregnancy is the hormonal changes that primarily affect the urinary tract (kidney, ureter, bladder and urethra) [12]. Hormonal changes also increase the risk of a type of yeast infection known as candidiasis and cause changes in the amount of fluid in the lungs, which can raise your risk for lung infections, such as pneumonia [13].

How To Prevent Infections In Pregnancy?

Gynaecologists point out that infections during pregnancy are preventable and advise pregnant women to take the necessary precautions to avoid developing any infections. Here are some expert tips that can help prevent infections during pregnancy [14]:

• Avoid consuming unpasteurised or raw dairy products.
• Do not share utensils with other people.
• Regularly wash your hands with soap and water.
• Cook food thoroughly and avoid eating undercooked meats.

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On A Final Note...

If you are pregnant, you are more vulnerable to getting infections than a woman who is not pregnant. With the number of COVID-19 cases continuing, take smart steps to save yourself and your baby and follow the guidelines. Talk to your gynaecologist in case of doubts.