Influenza is another common virus that can have adverse pregnancy effects. While influenza does not appear to have harmful effects on the fetus, influenza infection in pregnancy is more likely to result in severe maternal infection with higher risks of pneumonia, hospitalization, and even death. Prevention of the flu is primarily obtained through vaccination. Because of the risk of more serious consequences from influenza, pregnant women at any time in their pregnancy or during breastfeeding are recommended to receive the influenza vaccine. The nasal vaccine is not recommended in pregnancy, but can be using during breastfeeding. The vaccine will not only protect the mother, but also the unborn baby, and the newborn after delivery. Good hand washing as above will also provide protection against influenza infection. Other perinatal infections that can be prevented by vaccination prior to, in pregnancy, or the newborn period include Rubella (measles), Pertussis (whooping cough), and Varicella (chickenpox). Obtaining these vaccinations prior to pregnancy is an important step in preconception planning for a pregnancy. Varicella and rubella vaccines should not be given during pregnancy.
Group B strep
Group B streptococcus (GBS) is a commonly found bacteria that is present in the gastrointestinal and genital tracts of 1/3 of women. Maternal infection during pregnancy is very rare, however, the neonate can acquire infection from GBS in the first few days of life by acquiring the bacteria from the vagina during delivery. This infection can result in sepsis, meningitis, and pneumonia in the newborn. Prevention of neonatal GBS is accomplished by screening all pregnant women in the last month of pregnancy by obtaining a culture from the vagina and rectum. In women who carry GBS, antibiotics are given during labor with an 80% reduction in the risk of early on-sent GBS infection in the newborn. Simple measures such as good hand washing and hand hygiene, remaining up to date with vaccinations, screening during prenatal care, and safe food handling techniques can reduce the risk of the most common prenatal infections. -William Goodnight, MD MSCR, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill School of Medicine