How to prevent infections for a healthy pregnancy and baby

January 13, 2021

Now that winter has arrived, the temperatures are decreasing and the spread of germs is increasing. It’s even more important now because of the coronavirus (COVID-19). Washing your hands with soap and warm water or hand sanitizer that is at least 60% alcohol and trying to maintain good hygiene is important to staying healthy.

Hygiene refers to activities such as hand washing, bathing and brushing your teeth, which help you stay healthy. Maintaining good hygiene is one of the best ways to help prevent the spread of infections. People who are pregnant or thinking about becoming pregnant can increase their chances of having a healthy baby by doing things to help reduce the risk of infection. Not all birth defects can be prevented, but by maintaining healthy hygiene, you can help prevent the spread of infection. Here’s how.

Wash your hands

Wash your hands often. Wash them before preparing or eating food, after handling raw meat, raw eggs or unwashed vegetables. Wash them after being around pets or animals and after changing diapers or wiping runny noses.

Prepare food safely

Besides your hands, you should also wash all fruits and vegetables before preparing your food. Wash all surfaces and cuttings boards with warm soapy water after use as well. Separate raw meat and poultry from cooked or ready-to-eat foods. Be sure to cook foods at their proper temperature and never eat cooked food that has been out of the refrigerator for longer than two hours. 

Don’t share cups, foods or utensils with your children

Keep these items out of your mouth. Children’s saliva may contain cytomegalovirus or CMV, a common infection in young children. It’s usually harmless, but if a pregnant person passes it to their baby, it can cause serious problems. Babies born with CMV can have brain, liver, spleen, lung and growth problems. The most common long-term health problem in babies born with a CMV infection at birth (congenital) is hearing loss.  CMV is also found in urine, blood, tears, semen and breast milk, so be sure to wash your hands often, especially every time after changing diapers, breastfeeding, wiping runny noses, and picking up toys.

Stay away from wild or pet rodents

This includes mice, hamsters and guinea pigs. They may carry a virus called lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (also called LCMV) that can be harmful to you and your baby. LCMV can affect the brain and spinal cord and cause severe birth defects and miscarriage. To help prevent LCMV, keep pet rodents in a separate part of your home and wash your hands after petting and caring for them. Ask your partner or a friend to care for the pet and clean its cage. If your home has wild rats or mice, use pest control.

Let someone else clean the litter box

Dirty cat litter might contain a harmful parasite called Toxoplasma gondii, which causes toxoplasmosis. Toxoplasmosis is an infection you can get from eating undercooked meat or touching cat poop. If you become infected for the first time just before or during your pregnancy, you can pass the infection to your baby—even if you don’t have symptoms. Your baby is most at risk of getting toxoplasmosis if you become infected in the third trimester and is at least risk if you become infected during your first trimester. Toxoplasmosis can cause pregnancy complications such as preterm birth (birth before 37 weeks) and miscarriage. Other complications for your baby can include seizures, liver and spleen issues, jaundice or severe eye infections. The earlier in pregnancy you get infected, the more serious the baby’s problems may be after birth.

Have a friend, partner or family member clean your cat’s litter box during your pregnancy. If you are changing the litter yourself, be sure to wear gloves and wash your hands well afterward. Avoid stray cats or kittens. You also can come in contact with the parasite that causes toxoplasmosis through eating raw or undercooked meat, contaminated milk or water or unwashed fruits and veggies, by touching utensils and cutting boards used to prepare raw meat, fruits and veggies or by touching dirt or sand. Be sure your food is properly prepared, don’t drink unpasteurized milk and avoid sand boxes to protect yourself and your baby.

Practicing good hygiene daily can help you stay healthy and prevent the spread of infection.

See also:

Birth Defects Prevention Month