It's no fun being sick, especially during pregnancy, when you're likely to worry about your developing baby's health as much as your own. Fortunately, you may already be immune to a number of contagious diseases. And thanks to a successful vaccination program, rubella (German measles) – the most dangerous infection of all for a developing baby – is now very rare in this country.
You can also take comfort in the fact that most babies aren't harmed if their mother gets an infection during pregnancy. But some infections can be transmitted to babies through the placenta or during birth, and when that happens, it may have serious consequences for the baby. What's more, some infections can make you sicker if you get them when you're pregnant or may lead to complications like preterm labor.
You can't avoid all sources of infection while you're pregnant. But you can take certain steps to make it less likely that you'll get sick and to reduce the risk of serious problems for you or your baby if you do get an infection.
Getting prenatal care is crucial. For example, simple blood tests can tell you whether you're immune to certain infections, such as chicken pox and rubella. You'll also be tested for infections you may not know you have, including urinary tract infections, group B strep, hepatitis B, and HIV. If you think you've been exposed to a serious infection or you become ill, getting care in a timely manner can often help prevent complications.
You can do a number of things on your own, too. Basic measures like washing your hands, not sharing drinking glasses or utensils, not changing cat litter, using gloves when gardening, and staying away from anyone with a contagious disease will reduce your risk of getting sick.
Practicing safe sex will help prevent many sexually transmitted infections. And you can take measures to avoid food-borne infections too – such as not eating certain foods, washing fruits and vegetables, and making sure that your meat, fish, and eggs are well cooked and your work surfaces aren't contaminated.
Here's a list of some of the infections that can affect a pregnancy:
- Bacterial vaginosis
- Chicken pox
- Dengue fever
- Fifth disease (parvovirus)
- Group B strep
- Hepatitis B
- Rubella (German measles)
- Sexually transmitted infections
- Urinary tract infections
- Zika virus
If you're sick or think you've been exposed to a contagious disease, let your caregiver know so you can be tested and treated if necessary.
A 3D animated look at a baby in the second trimester of pregnancy.