Precautions to take during Pregnancy

So PLEASE don't be alarmed by the number of diseases that can cause miscarriages or other prenatal complications...I felt it was important to be as comprehensive as possible. Most are very uncommon and/or easy to avoid with a few simple precautions. When you are pregnant part of your immune system weakens (perhaps to prevent your body from rejecting something "foreign" like a fetus?) and thus you can become more susceptible to diseases that normally wouldn't make you sick. Additionally, some microbes (bacteria, viruses or parasites) can pass across the placental barrier, thus infecting the fetus.

 

To avoid contracting a disease that can put you at risk for a miscarriage

 

A note about Vitamins

If you are trying to get pregnant, or think you may be, it is important to take between 400-800 micrograms (or 0.4 - 0.8 mg) of FOLIC ACID every day. This vitamin, when taken before and at the beginning of pregnancy, reduces the risk of brain and spinal cord defects. Your body needs it to produce red blood cells, as well as certain chemical components of the nervous system. It also helps synthesize DNA, normalize brain function and is a critical part of spinal fluid.

Prenatal vitamins should have these amounts of folic acid in addition to many other vitamins that will help insure a healthy pregnancy!

A note about aspirin

(2004) Recent research suggests caution in the taking of aspirin during pregnancy.

Homeopathy

Ginger appears to be a safe and mildly effective treatment for nausea and vomiting during pregnancy according to an article in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, November 2003.


Details on each disease that can affect pregnancy

Toxoplasmosis

This condition is caused by a parasite. This means that it needs a host (i.e. an animal) to thrive and reproduce.
To prevent acquiring it you should:

  1. NEVER go near animal feces (i.e. have someone else care for the cat, dog or bird and their litter). This includes wearing gloves while gardening and washing your hands well afterwards, since animal droppings are commonly found in dirt.
  2. Thoroughly wash all fruits and vegetables
  3. Do not eat poorly cooked meat (& fish)
Toxoplasmosis is found in many parts of the world. Many Europeans are exposed to it from a young age, and have thus developed immunity to it (it can't make them sick). Complications are more likely if you are infected in the first trimester of pregnancy.
Detailed info about how to protect yourself from toxoplasmosis if you are pregnant
Detailed info about the disease

Listeriosis

This condition is caused by a bacteria.
To prevent acquiring it you should (according to USDA recommendations):

  1. Reheat until steaming hot the following types of ready-to-eat foods: hot dogs, luncheon meats, deli meats, cold cuts, fermented and dry sausage and meat and poultry. If you cannot reheat these foods, do not eat them.
  2. Wash hands with hot, soapy water after handling these types of ready-to-eat foods. (Wash for at least 20 seconds.) Also wash cutting boards, dishes and utensils. Thorough washing helps eliminate any bacteria that might get on your hands or other surfaces from food before its been reheated. Washing helps eliminate bacteria that might spread from food before it is reheated.
  3. Avoid eating soft cheeses such as feta, Brie, Camembert, blue-veined varieties or Mexican-style cheese. At-risk consumers can eat hard cheeses, processed cheeses, cream cheese, cottage cheese and yogurt.
  4. Observe all expiration dates for perishable items that are precooked or ready-to-eat.
  5. Do not drink raw, unpasteurized milk or eat foods made from it, such as unpasteurized cheese.
While many bacteria can only grow in certain places and in certain temperatures, Listeria bacteria can grow in all sorts of conditions...in fact, they grow EXTREMELY well at 4 ºC, the temperature of your refridgerator!
Listeria Alert
Detailed info on Listeriosis
Chicken pox, measles and rubella (german measles)

These are all caused by viruses (for more information, see the factsheets under "Childhood Infectious Diseases" on this site)

These diseases cause SERIOUS fetal complications including: death, deafness, heart defects, mental retardation, and organ damage, among other things.

A very comprehensive summary of Rubella
Detailed info on Chickenpox
A nurse's advice on red measles exposure during pregnancy


Fifth disease
This is caused by a virus that only infects humans (i.e. you can only catch this disease from another person). Many people develop immunity during their adolescence and for those that aren't immune, the risk for complications, like miscarriage, is very low. It is generally a mild illness.
Detailed info from the CDC

CMV (cytomegalovirus)
While a pregnant woman may experience very mild symptoms from a CMV infection, there is a risk of serious complications (like death, deafness or retardation) if the woman is infected FOR THE FIRST TIME during her pregnancy.
A very clear CMV factsheet
Hepatitis E
OK, here's where I have to get a bit graphic. Hepatitis E virus is transmitted by the fecal-oral route. That means that when an infected person doesn't wash their hands after going to the bathroom, the virus (which is present in large quantities in the feces) can be passed on to you when those hands come in contact with your food or utensils, for instance. When countries have poor santitation this means that drinking water can be contaminated with feces as well. Hepatitis E is very uncommon in the US, but is more prevalent in Mexico, Northern Africa and Central Asia. 15-25% of infected pregnant women die! A VERY high fatality rate (normally 1-2% if you are not pregnant)
More info on ALL types of Hepatitis
Details on Hepatitis from "Parents of Kids with Infectious Disease" website
Lymphocytic Choriomeningitis Virus (LCMV)
A virus, which can be passed from rodents (such as common house mice) to humans.
Detailed info on LCMV
Warning about LCMV taken from Clinical Infectious Diseases, 2001;33:370-374

General Bibliography

Exposure to illness during pregnancy - Parentsplace.com
ABCs of a healthy pregnancy
2004 Report on congenital infections - Medscape article


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