Preventing Prenatal Infections
Prenatal infections can potentially harm both the baby and surrogate but can be avoided by making healthy choices and taking a few extra precautions. The most common prenatal infections are Cytomegalovirus (CMV), Group B Strep (GBS) and Listeriosis. About 1 in 4 pregnant women in the US carry the bacteria that causes GBS and pregnant women are 10 times more likely than other people to get listeriosis. The mnemonic HYGIENE created by Group B Strep International (link groupbstrepinternational.com) provides a great summary of ways to prevent prenatal infections.
H: Handwashing Helps
Thorough and frequent handwashing can help prevent infections such as Influenza, CMV and toxoplasmosis. Wash your hands with soap (or use an alcohol based sanitizer if soap/water isn’t available) for at least 20 seconds after: using the bathroom, handling raw meat/poultry, eggs or unwashed fruit or vegetables, preparing food or eating, caring for or playing with young children, changing a diaper, feeding a young child, gardening or contact with soil/sand, etc.
Y: Yes to Prenatal Care
Routine prenatal care is essential for preventing infections such as GBS, hepatitis B and chlamydia. Work with your provider to ensure all necessary testing is completed. Get tested for STI’s prior to implantation and have your urine cultured for bacteria at your first prenatal visit so you can be treated early if necessary. See your provider right away if you have symptoms of vaginitis because although yeast infection symptoms can be similar, over the counter medications are not effective against bacteria. Taking care of your teeth and visiting the dentist is also important during pregnancy to prevent periodontal disease and tooth decay but be sure to tell your dentist that you are pregnant.
G: Good Food Prepared Safely
It is very important to avoid exposure to Listeria, the bacteria in food that cause Listeriosis. Make sure any meat consumed is cooked until well done with no pink inside and that the juices run clear. Avoid: unpasteurized milk and any products made from it, raw or undercooked meat, poultry or seafood and hot dogs or deli meat unless heated until steaming hot just before serving. Use special care when handling food: wash or peel fruits and vegetables, store raw meat separately from other foods, avoid getting fluid from hot dog packages on other surfaces, wash cutting boards and counters after contact with raw meat, poultry, seafood or unwashed fruits/vegetables.
Make sure your immunizations are up to date before implantation and ask your provider if you are immune to German measles (Rubella) and chickenpox, both of which could cause stillbirth and/or
serious birth defects. These vaccines can’t be given during pregnancy so if you’re not immune you need to be extra careful to avoid contact with anyone infected with these viruses. Also make sure you get any recommended flu shots during pregnancy because having the flu increases the risk of the baby being born premature and/or having birth defects.
E: Evade Others’ Bodily Fluids
Avoid exposure to germs from others’ saliva, urine, blood, semen and other bodily fluids and stay away from anyone with infections that can be spread through coughing and sneezing. Pregnant women are most commonly exposed to CMV through the saliva or urine of young children. Don’t share food, drinks or eating utensils with young children and don’t put a child’s pacifier in your mouth. Clean any toys and surfaces that come in contact with young children’s saliva or urine. Always practice safe sex especially with a new partner as they can introduce new germs even through oral sex. Be careful not to come in contact with used needles, blood or open sores and don’t share toothbrushes or razors. Bodily fluids can be responsible for transmitting infections such as HIV, CMV, GBS, E. Coli, hepatitis C and parvovirus B19.
N: No to Unnecessary Invasive Procedures
Avoid unnecessary, frequent or forceful internal examinations as germs can even cross intact membranes. Vaginal or perineal ultrasounds are less invasive procedures. Also consider talking to your doctor early in pregnancy about not sweeping your membranes (a common procedure used to induce labor). Avoiding these procedures can help protect the baby against exposure to infections such as GBS and E. Coli.
E: Environmental Precautions
Avoiding certain environmental factors can protect you from exposure to toxoplasmosis, Lyme disease, West Nile and Zika virus. Avoid: changing cat litter, don’t handle stray cats, stay away from pet or wild rodents, lizards, turtles and their droppings, wear gloves when gardening, walk in the center of trails to avoid ticks and remove standing water around your home to avoid mosquitoes breeding.
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