As the number of cases of confirmed Zika virus in Florida continues to rise, young couples and parents to be have become more concerned about the well-being of their unborn babies and future pregnancy. Doctors and scientist are working tirelessly to control the spread of the virus and find a vaccine to help protect us against any birth defects that it may cause. The unknown dangers of Zika and its ability to spread has made it a top priority for the CDC and the focus of many media stories. However, it is important to understand that there are many illness that can harm an unborn baby. Some that are much more common and easier to contract than Zika virus. Advances in medicine have allowed us to identify these infections and protect against them. So let’s discuss!
Toxopasmosis. Have you ever wondered why a pregnant woman should not change the cat liter or clean the liter box? Toxoplasmosis is caused by a parasite that may be present in cat feces. Similar to Zika, toxoplasmosis causes very mild symptoms in adults. However, a pregnant mother who contracts this illness during or just before pregnancy can pass the infection to her unborn child. A newborn infected with toxoplasmosis may suffer from an enlarged liver and spleen, severe eye infection, jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes), and pneumonia. Unfortunately, some newborns with this infection will die within a few days of birth. Long term consequences of infected newborns can include seizures, mental retardation, impaired eyesight, cerebral palsy, and many other problems.
Listeriosis. Listeriosis is a serious infection that you can get from eating contaminated food. Similar to the other illnesses that we have been discussing, a woman with a strong immune system will only suffer mild flu like symptoms if contracting this illness. However, listeria can infect the baby as well as the placenta and amniotic fluid. Many times becoming infected with listeria during pregnancy, can lead to miscarriage and still birth. Listeria is commonly found in undercooked meats and unpasteurized milk. During pregnancy it is important to make sure all meats are cooked through. Fish should be cooked until the flesh in the middle is opaque. Avoid cold deli meats and reheat all leftovers thoroughly.
Measles, Rubella, and Chicken Pox. I think it is important to understand that when you make the decision whether or not to vaccinate your child, you are not only affecting your child’s health but also the health of their unborn children. Although rare, if a woman who does not have immunity to rubella, gets infected with the virus during the first trimester, the results can be catastrophic to the unborn baby. The baby can suffer from heart defects, blindness, enlarged liver and spleen, jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes), hearing loss, hemolytic anemia, and many other life threatening conditions. During your first prenatal visit, blood work will be done to ensure you have immunity against these illness and others that can be dangerous to your newborn.
Pregnancy is an amazing but vulnerable time! It is important to work with your doctor to maintain the best health for you and your little one. I hopes this helps you with your journey!