Some infections before and during pregnancy potentially can harm you and your developing fetus. They can cause serious sickness, birth defects, and lifelong problems, such as hearing loss or learning disabilities.
You can take preventive steps to help you prevent infections that could harm you and your developing baby. You will not always know if you have an infection and sometimes you will not feel sick. If you think you might have an infection or think you are at risk, see your healthcare provider.
The following 10 tips can help prevent infections before and during pregnancy:
1. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water after the following activities
- Using the bathroom
- Touching raw meat, raw eggs, or unwashed vegetables
- Preparing food and eating
- Gardening or touching dirt or soil
- Handling pets
- Being around people who are sick
- Getting saliva (spit) on your hands
- Caring for and playing with children
- Changing diapers
2. Be UP-TO-Date With Your Vaccinations
Talk to your healthcare provider about vaccinations (shots). Some vaccinations are recommended before you become pregnant, during pregnancy, or right after delivery. Having the right vaccinations at the right time can help keep you healthy and help keep your baby from getting very sick or having life-long health problems.
3. Avoid People With Infection
If you have not yet had or did not have the vaccine before pregnancy, stay away from people who you know have infections, such as chickenpox or rubella.
4. Avoid Cat Litter
Don’t touch or change dirty cat litter, instead have someone else do it. If you must change the cat litter yourself, be sure to wear gloves and wash your hands afterwards. Dirty cat litter might contain a harmful parasite.
5. Avoid Wild Or Pet Rodents
Stay away from wild or pet rodents and their droppings. Have a pest control professional get rid of pests in or around your home. If you have a pet rodent, like a hamster or guinea pig, have someone else care for it until after your baby arrives. Some rodents might carry a harmful virus.
6. Protect Yourself From Cytomegalovirus (CMV) Infection
Reduce contact with saliva and urine from babies and young children. A common virus called cytomegalovirus (CMV) can cause problems for some babies, including microcephaly and hearing loss. A woman who is infected with CMV can pass the virus to her developing baby during pregnancy. Women may be able to lessen their risk of getting CMV by reducing contact with saliva and urine from babies and young children. Some ways to do this are by not sharing food and utensils with babies and young children, and washing hands after changing diapers. These actions can’t eliminate your risk of getting CMV, but may lessen your chances of getting it.
7. Avoid Unpasteurized Milk And Milk Products
Avoid unpasteurized (raw) milk and foods made from it. Don’t eat soft cheeses, such as feta, brie, and queso fresco, unless they have labels that say they are pasteurized. Unpasteurized products can contain harmful bacteria.
8. Get Tested For Group B Streptococcus
Ask your doctor about group B strep. About 1 in 4 women carry this type of bacteria, but do not feel sick. An easy swab test near the end of pregnancy will show if you have this type of bacteria. If you do have group B strep, talk to your healthcare provider about how to protect your baby during labor.
9. Protect Yourself From STDs
Get tested for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), such as HIV and hepatitis B, and protect yourself from them. Some people that have HIV, hepatitis B, or an STD do not feel sick. Knowing if you have one of these diseases is important. If you do, talk to your healthcare provider about reducing the chance that your baby will become sick. Learn more about STDs.
10. Protect Yourself From Zika Virus
Protect yourself from Zika virus, as Zika virus can be passed from a pregnant woman to her fetus during pregnancy or to her baby around the time of birth. Zika virus infection during pregnancy can cause microcephaly (The baby’s head and brain are smaller than expected).
If you are trying to become pregnant, talk with your healthcare provider before traveling to areas with Zika and strictly follow steps to prevent mosquito bites during the trip. If you are pregnant, do not travel to areas with Zika. If you must travel to an area with Zika, talk to your doctor first and strictly follow steps to prevent mosquito bites during the trip.
If you have a partner who lives in or has traveled to an area with Zika, use condoms from start to finish, every time you have sex to protect against infection or do not have sex during the pregnancy.