When you’re pregnant, your concern about your own health naturally shoots up. You want to make sure that you’re in good health in order to ensure a healthy and smooth pregnancy. Yet, it is rare that absolutely nothing is wrong with our body; it is important to note that a health condition is not necessarily fatal for your pregnancy. Here, we have provided an overview of diseases and how they might affect your pregnancy. Working around the information here should allow you to take the necessary care and precautions to ensure the minimal complication in your pregnancy.
Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is caused by an imbalance in the bacteria that live in your vagina. 1 in 5 women suffer from this infection at some point during their pregnancy. BV happens when there is a lack of “good” bacteria (lactobacilli) to keep other kinds of bacteria in check. Nobody knows why such an imbalance can occur.
Having BV when you’re pregnant makes you susceptible to having (1) preterm birth (2) giving birth to a baby with low birth weight (3) preterm premature rupture of the membranes (PPROM), and (4) uterine infection post-delivery.
More worryingly, some research has shown a connection between BV and second-trimester miscarriage.
But the link between BV and pregnancy complications isn’t clear. Experts aren’t clear if the risks named above are directly linked to BV or if the women in question are predisposed to other problems and infections that lead to the complications. It is important to note that most women with BV also have perfectly normal pregnancies and up to 50% of the cases of BV during pregnancy actually resolve on their own.
Sexually Transmitted Diseases
(Syphilis, Human Papillomavirus, Herpes, Gonorrhea, Chlamydia and HIV)
Of the list of STDs, it is particularly important to note that syphilis can have particularly dangerous effects on a developing baby. If left untreated, syphilis can cause a 25 to 50 percent chance of miscarriage. Research shows that babies who are born have a high chance of contracting the disease if the mother has it. Syphilis in newborns causes fevers, rashes, anemia, meningitis and even liver and brain damage. For this reason, doctors are usually rigorous about testing for sexually transmitted infections at the start of a pregnancy. Penicillin is used to attack the disease in pregnant women.
Human Papillomavirus is the most common sexually transmitted disease. In the United States, up to 75% of sexually active men and women will be infected with it at some point. There are both low-risk and high-risk strains of HPV. Fortunately, the chances of passing it on to your baby is relatively low.
Even if the baby does contract HPV, he is likely to overcome it on his own without much complications.
During pregnancy, routine pap smears are used in part to screen for HPVs, but if HPV actively shows up as genital warts in a pregnant woman, doctors will most likely not treat them as the body usually has the ability to overcome the infection on its own. Genital warts often enough disappear after birth.
Herpes can affect a developing baby fatally. But if the mother contracts the herpes virus prior to pregnancy, or if herpes is detected in early pregnancy, the chances of the baby contracting it is less than 1%.
The risk of a baby being infected with herpes goes up however (30 to 50 percent) if the mother is infected late in pregnancy. This is due to the fact that the mother’s immune system has not developed the necessary protective antibodies against the virus. If you think you have been infected with herpes during your pregnancy, you should consult your doctor right away.
If a baby does contract herpes, it can pose dangerous for the skin, eyes, mouth, organs and central nervous system. To avoid this danger, some doctors might recommend a C-section if the mother has an outbreak during the period of expected delivery.
Gonorrhea is a bacterial infection and the risk of spreading it to the baby is particularly high during delivery. Gonorrhea also increases the risk of miscarriage and premature birth. If a mother is infected, the baby might catch eye infections that can lead to blindness. Further risks include joint infections and dangerous blood infections. Fortunately, it is relatively simple to treat gonorrhea with antibiotics and pregnant women should seek the appropriate care should they suffer from gonorrhea during pregnancy.
Chlamydia is similar to gonorrhea in its role in increasing the risk of miscarriage and premature birth. Chlamydia can also cause eye infections and pneumonia in the baby at birth. Since chlamydia, like gonorrhea, is a bacterial infection, it can be treated with antibiotics during pregnancy. Medication to treat gonorrheal infections of the eye is also effective against chlamydial eye infections.
HIV is a viral STD with no known cure which weakens the immune system by attacking CD4+ and T-Cells, leaving the body helpless to fight off infections and diseases. With treatment, the chances of passing HIV to a newborn drops to 2%. However, if left untreated, the virus has 25 percent chance of infecting the baby.
Hepatitis B is an inflammation of the liver. If you are a carrier of Hep B, there is a 10-20 percent chance of transmitting the virus to your baby at birth. The risk depends on when you were infected and how much Hepatitis B virus is in your blood. As with herpes, the chances of infecting your baby become significantly higher if you contracted the virus later during the pregnancy.
Your doctor may recommend a drug called tenofovir, which can lower the risk of transmitting the disease to your baby. Within 12 hours of birth, your baby will be given the Hepatitis B vaccine to prevent him from contracting the disease. Although infected infants might not any immediate symptoms of Hep B, they can become “chronic carriers” and may spread the virus throughout their lives. It us thus urgent that you monitor your pregnancy carefully should you be a Hep B carrier.
Urinary Tract Infections
As you might have heard, urinary tract infections are fairly common during pregnancy (the higher level of glucose in your urine during pregnancy is one factor why UTIs become more common). Of the common types of UTIs, asymptomatic bacteriuria increases your risk of getting a kidney infection. It is also linked to preterm labor and low birth weight.
Another type of UTI that affects your pregnancy is the kidney infection. Bacteria might travel from your bladder up to infect your kidney/s. A kidney infection (also known as pyelonephritis) is one of the most common serious complication of pregnancy. The infection can become life-threatening for the mother. It also increases the chance of preterm labor and a baby with low birth weight. It has been further linked to both fetal and newborn mortality.
Because UTIs can cause such serious complications during pregnancy and are commonly occurring infections, doctors routinely test a pregnant woman’s urine to screen for UTIs. In order to avoid contracting UTIs during pregnancy, drink plenty of water, take some cranberry juice or supplements and keep good vaginal hygiene during your pregnancy. Rest assured that a course of antibiotics can treat UTIs during pregnancy.
Toxoplasmosis seems unlikely but it is behind the advice that pregnant women should avoid cats. Toxoplasmosis is an infection spread by cat feces but birds can be another culprit. While the disease is not easily transmitted to the baby, the risk to a developing baby can be serious (brain damage, seizures and blindness can occur). Pregnant women are thus advised to avoid having too much to do with cat litter boxes during pregnancy.