Four ways to reduce risk of infection in pregnancy

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Keisha L.B. Reddick

Women might be more likely to get an infection during pregnancy because the immune system is naturally suppressed.

While many infections do not cause problems, some, like influenza, varicella (chickenpox), cytomegalovirus, group B streptococcus (GBS), listeriosis, rubella, toxoplasmosis and others, can be harmful to the mother, the developing baby or both.

Here are a few steps you can take to reduce your risk of getting an infection in pregnancy:

Practice good hygiene. Good hygiene includes washing your hands often. Hand washing is the best way to prevent some contagious infections during pregnancy.

Good hygiene also includes not sharing food, drinks or utensils. This is especially important if you work with large groups of children and if you already have young children at home.

Hands should always be washed after changing diapers and helping children with their own hygiene.

Immunizations. It is best to obtain any needed immunizations several months before your pregnancy. If needed, you can safely receive some vaccines, such as the flu vaccine, during pregnancy.

If you are planning to become pregnant, talk with your doctor about whether you need immunizations for the following: Measles, mumps, rubella, varicella, hepatitis B, tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis.

There are several infections that have no vaccine available. You can reduce your risk of getting these infections by practicing good hygiene and avoiding direct contact with infected people. Talk to your doctor about screening for other infections that can affect you and your baby during pregnancy.

Avoid exposure to diseases. Avoiding certain high-risk situations is a good way to lower your chances of being exposed to a potentially dangerous infectious disease. Take these precautions to avoid exposure:

• Avoid travel to high-risk locations. If you are planning to travel during pregnancy, talk with your doctor about the safety of your destination.

• Make sure children and other family household members are up to date with their immunizations.

• Have someone else change the cat's litter box. Or, wear gloves and wash hands carefully after doing this. Also, wear gloves while gardening, and wash hands after working in the yard.

• Practice safe sexual activities to prevent sexually transmitted infections.

Avoid contaminated food. Infections like listeriosis and toxoplasmosis can be caused by ingesting contaminated foods. To reduce your risk of developing these infections:

• Avoid soft cheeses.

• Avoid all rare or uncooked meat.

• Cook leftover foods or ready-to-eat foods until they are steaming hot.

• Avoid foods from delicatessen counters, or thoroughly heat cold cuts and hot dogs before eating.

Dr. Keisha L.B. Reddick is a maternal-fetal medicine physician who sees patients at Memorial Health University Physicians High-Risk OB Care in Bluffton and Savannah. MemorialHealthDoctors.com.

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