Expecting mothers face various obstacles during pregnancy. The physical changes to a woman’s body during pregnancy can be a challenge unlike any other she has ever faced, and the mental challenges of pending motherhood also can prove a lot to process, particularly for first-time mothers.
Maintaining the health of a developing fetus is another challenge that expecting mothers face during pregnancy. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that certain infections before and during pregnancy can hurt both expecting mothers and their babies. Serious illness, birth defects and even lifelong disabilities such as hearing loss and learning problems can result from infections before and during pregnancy. Thankfully, many infections that occur before and during pregnancy are preventable. The CDC offers these tips to help prevent such infections.
- Frequently wash hands with soap and water. Women no doubt recognize the importance of washing hands after using the bathroom. But the risk of infection before and during pregnancy also can be reduced if women wash their hands after preparing food, eating, gardening or touching dirt or soil, handling pets, spending time around people who are sick, getting saliva on their hands, caring for and playing with children, and changing diapers. It’s especially important that women wash their hands after touching raw meat, eggs or unwashed vegetables.
- Avoid saliva and urine from babies and young children as much as possible. The CDC notes that women may be able to reduce their risk of getting cytomegalovirus, or CMV, if they reduce their contact with the saliva and urine from babies and young children. CMV can cause various problems for young babies, including microcephaly and hearing loss, and the virus can be passed from infected women to their developing babies during pregnancy. Wash hands after changing diapers and do not share utensils with young children and babies.
- Do not touch or change any cat litter. Pregnant women with cats at home should avoid touching or changing dirty cat litter. Toxoplasmosa is an infection caused by a single-celled parasite that can be found in cat feces. Women infected with toxoplasmosa during pregnancy or right before pregnancy can pass the infection on to their developing babies, so it’s imperative that women avoid dirty cat litter. Women also should wear gloves when gardening or touching soil so they do not risk coming into contact with fecal matter left behind by outdoor cats.
- Get tested for sexually transmitted diseases. The CDC notes that STDs, including HIV and hepatitis B, can be transmitted from pregnant women to their developing babies. Such diseases do not always produce symptoms, so it’s imperative that women be tested and that infected women speak with their health care providers about how to lower the chances that their babies will be infected.
Taking steps to prevent prenatal infections can help women and their developing babies stay healthy.