January 23, 2018

Preventing Infections while Pregnant Helps to Prevent Birth Defects

January is National Birth Defects Prevention Month, providing an opportunity to spread awareness about certain infectious diseases that can lead to birth defects during pregnancy.

Learn more about these five preventable infectious diseases:

  1. Zika Virus – The CDC recommends that after traveling to a country with Zika, women wait at least two months and men wait at least six months before trying to conceive a pregnancy. Using condoms or not having sex during this wait time can reduce the risk of passing the virus to others through sexual contact.
  2. Listeriosis – Consuming unpasteurized milk products can cause listeriosis, which increases the chance of miscarriage, preterm delivery, still birth, and serious long-term complications for baby. A blood test can confirm infection, and treating mom reduces the risk of infection for baby.
  3. Toxoplasmosis – Active toxoplasmosis infection during pregnancy can cause developmental problems for the infant. Avoid infection by cooking meat thoroughly, washing and peeling fruits and vegetables, washing your hands after handling soil or raw meat, wearing gloves while gardening, avoiding contact with cat feces, and not feeding your cat raw meat.
  4. Syphilis – Sexually-transmitted syphilis bacteria can spread from mom to baby during pregnancy and cause stillbirth, prematurity, and birth defects. Early treatment means better outcomes for mom and baby. Tell your baby’s pediatrician if you are diagnosed with syphilis during pregnancy, since a baby might develop related complications even after being born.
  5. CMV (Cytomegalovirus) – CMV spreads through body fluids, and can pass from mom to baby during pregnancy. About 20% of babies born with CMV have health problems at birth or later in childhood. The best CMV prevention is to wash your hands often and avoid contact with the urine or saliva of a child who might have the virus.

If you have questions about infections during pregnancy, contact MotherToBaby North Carolina at (800) 532-6302 or visit MotherToBabyNC.org.

MotherToBaby North Carolina is housed at the Mission Fullerton Genetics Center.

Reviewed by Lorri Harris-Sagaribay, MPH, Teratogen Information Specialist, MotherToBaby North Carolina.