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Preventing infection during your pregnancy

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Getting an infection while you are pregnant not only creates risks for your baby, but can carry risks for you, the mother.

The list below provides some basic information about some of the more common infection risks.

Contact your provider immediately if you are experiencing symptoms.

Chickenpox (Varicella)

How Do I Get It?: Most people had chickenpox as a child. If so, you are immune. Non-immune people get chickenpox by being in close contact with infected people.

Symptoms: Fever, tiredness, followed by onset of blisters on the face and neck, then spreading to the rest of the body.

Treatment: Hospitalization for evaluation and treatment.

Effects on Baby: Limbs, eyes, and brain may be affected. Newborn babies can become infected if they deliver when the mother is infected.

Prevention: Vaccination; you can be tested for immunity. If non-immune, avoid contact with people who have chickenpox.

Hepatitis B

How Do I Get It?: Contact with body fluids (saliva, semen, blood) of an infected person by mouth, breaks in skin, or through sex, blood transfusion.

Symptoms: Flu-like symptoms; nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, jaundice (yellowing of skin).

Treatment: None; usually resolves spontaneously. Some people always carry the virus and can infect others.

Effects on Baby: Baby may develop hepatitis.

Prevention: Immunization is available. If nonimmune, avoid contact with body fluids of infected person or those who carry the virus. You will be tested to see if you carry the virus. Your provider will discuss the results with you and any recommendations for your pregnancy care.


How Do I Get It?: Having sex with an infected person; injecting needles that are HIV infected; rarely by receiving HIV infected blood transfusion.

Symptoms: Very often no symptoms for many years; may have flu-like symptoms, recurrent fevers, swollen glands, weight loss, fatigue, diarrhea.

Treatment: No cure: however, treatment is available that may decrease risk of transmission to baby, and help you fight AIDS-related diseases.

Effects on Baby: HIV can be passed to the baby during pregnancy or while breastfeeding.

Prevention: Avoid high risk behavior. (Ask if you need information.) Tell your provider if you would like to be tested for HIV.


How Do I Get It?: Eating food contaminated with the bacterium listeria monocytogenes.

Symptoms: Fever, muscle aches, nausea, diarrhea.

Treatment: Antibiotics

Effects on Baby: Infections in the newborn, premature delivery, or stillbirth.

Prevention: Avoid eating raw meat, having unpasteurized milk or cheese, and raw fruits and vegetables that are not washed.

Parvovirus (Fifth's Disease)

How Do I Get It?: Half of all adults are immune; most cases occur during childhood. Persons at risk are those with children at home. At lower risk are teachers and day care providers.

Symptoms: Headache, sore throat, fever, joint pain, aches, watery eyes, nausea, diarrhea, cough followed by the onset of rash on face and body.

Treatment: None; it resolves without treatment.

Effects on Baby: Usually none; however, some unborn babies may develop anemia or die.

Rubella (German measles)

How Do I Get It?: Most people are immune because they were vaccinated as children. Non-immune people who are close to infected people may become infected. Especially at risk are those in contact with children (at school, daycare, or mothers of non-immunized children). Call your provider if you have been exposed to rubella.

Symptoms: Fever, headache, watery eyes, swollen glands, followed by onset of a rash

Treatment: None; the best treatment is prevention

Effects on Baby: Deafness is the most common effect. The eyes and brain may also be affected.

Prevention: Immunization; you will be tested to see if you are immune. If you are not immune, it is usually advisable to receive the vaccine after delivery. During pregnancy, avoid contact with persons known or thought to have rubella.


How Do I Get It?: Eating undercooked meat, or vegetables that have not been properly cleaned; also by handling cat feces or litter boxes.

Symptoms: Tiredness, headaches, swollen glands.

Treatment: Some medications are available, but are not always effective or may not be safe to use during pregnancy. The best treatment is prevention.

Effects on Baby: May include eye infection, damage to brain, convulsions, mental retardation, early delivery.

Prevention: Cook meat to well done. Wash fruits and vegetables before eating. Wash hands and kitchen surfaces after food preparation. Avoid contact with cat feces.

West Nile Virus

How Do I Get It?: Transmitted to humans by the bite of an infected mosquito.

Symptoms: Headaches, fever, muscle aches, skin rash.

Treatment: Comfort measures

Effects on Baby: Usually none

Prevention: Use mosquito repellent containing DEET. Use the lowest amount of DEET possible to protect yourself.