by Dr. Threvia West, Maternal-Fetal Medicine Specialist

You may be more likely to get an infection during pregnancy because your immune system is naturally suppressed. And while many infections do not cause problems, some – like varicella, cytomegalovirus, group B streptococcus (GBS), listeriosis, rubella, toxoplasmosis and others – can be harmful to you, your developing baby or both.

Here are a few steps you can take to reduce your risk of getting an infection in pregnancy: 

  1. Practice good hygiene
  2. Good hygiene includes washing your hands often. Hand washing is the best way to prevent some contagious infections during pregnancy. Good hygiene also includes not sharing food, drinks or utensils. This is especially important if you work with large groups of children and if you already have young children at home. Hands should always be washed after changing diapers and helping children with their own hygiene.

  1. Immunization
  2. It is best to obtain any needed immunizations several months before your pregnancy. If needed, you can safely receive some vaccines, such as the flu vaccine, during pregnancy.

    If you are planning to become pregnant, talk with your doctor about whether you need immunizations for the following diseases:

    • measles
    • mumps
    • rubella
    • varicella
    • hepatitis B
    • tetanus
    • diphtheria
    • pertussis

    There are several infections that have no vaccine available. You can reduce your risk of getting these infections by practicing good hygiene and avoiding direct contact with infected people. Talk to your doctor about screening for other infections that can affect you and your baby during pregnancy. 

  1. Avoid exposure to diseases
  2. Avoiding certain high-risk situations is a good way to lower your chances of being exposed to a potentially dangerous infectious disease. Take these precautions to avoid exposure: 

    • Avoid travel to high-risk locations. If you are planning to travel during pregnancy, talk with your doctor about the safety of your destination.
    • Make sure children and other family household members are up-to-date with their immunizations.
    • Have someone else change the cat’s litter box. Or, wear gloves and wash hands carefully after doing this. Also, wear gloves while gardening, and wash hands after working in the yard.
    • Maintain a long-term mutually monogamous relationship with a partner who has been tested for STDs and is not infected. If you have a new partner during pregnancy, use latex condoms every time you have intercourse.
  1. Avoid contaminated food
  2. Infections like listeriosis and toxoplasmosis can be caused by ingesting contaminated foods. To reduce your risk of developing these infections:

    • Avoid soft cheeses.
    • Avoid all rare or uncooked meat.
    • Cook leftover food or ready-to-eat foods until they are steaming hot.
    • Avoid foods from delicatessen counters, or thoroughly heat cold cuts and hot dogs before eating.

-- Dr. Threvia West is a Maternal-Fetal Medicine Specialist with Maternal-Fetal Medicine Center, 4704 Ambassador Caffery Pkwy., Suite 302, Lafayette and the Women’s & Children’s Center, 1811 Rees St., Breaux Bridge. Call 337-443-6870 today for an appointment or to learn more.