Common questions about bacteria, viruses and vaccines during pregnancy

By Dr. Deb Krahl

Dr. Deb Krahl has been a practicing OB/GYN for 16 years. She received her medical degree from the University of Minnesota before completing her residency training at the University of California-Irvine. She has been with Aspen Medical Group for the last nine years and is currently the lead OB/GYN physician there. She is excited to be among the OB/GYN’s delivering at The Mother Baby Center.

Another glorious Minnesota winter is just around the corner – yay! Experiencing the first snowfall, sledding with hot cocoa and spending the holidays snuggled up with family are wonderful winter thoughts. Unfortunately, winter is also associated with colds, coughs, strep throat and the flu. That makes it a relevant time to go over possible viruses and infections – weather-related and otherwise – that I always like to discuss with my patients.

Influenza

If you’re pregnant during the winter, the most important thing you can do is GET A FLU SHOT! Children, the elderly, people with chronic medical problems and pregnant patients are the high risk groups that should get the flu vaccine. Don’t think “I never get sick” or “I don’t want the flu shot because I might get sick from it.”  If you get the flu while pregnant, you could become extremely ill, have severe respiratory problems or even die, so please get your flu shot.

Pertussis

Whooping cough or pertussis has made a comeback nationally. The Tdap vaccine (tetanus/diphtheria/pertussis) is strongly recommended during pregnancy if you haven’t had this vaccine in the past 10 years. This vaccine is important for both you and your baby. It protects your baby against whooping cough from birth to 2 months when the baby gets his or her first pertussis vaccine as a newborn.

Varicella (chickenpox)

Most people have had chickenpox. But if you’re unsure, please tell your OB provider at the first visit. Blood work can be done to check your immunity. If not immune, you should get the chickenpox vaccine after delivery.

Herpes virus

Genital herpes is very common, and it’s important to discuss this with your OB provider so they know your history. Anyone with a history of herpes should be on daily medication the last month of pregnancy to prevent this infection from being passed to the baby in labor. If someone has an active herpes infection in labor, she would need a Cesarean section so the virus does not pass to the baby while going through the birth canal.

Toxoplasmosis

Avoid changing or touching cat litter and eating uncooked meats to avoid this infection during pregnancy.

Listeria

Don’t eat any unpasteurized milks or cheeses, which could cause this infection during  pregnancy.

Parvo virus (Fifth disease)

This virus is most common in young children so teachers, daycare providers and mothers of little kids are most likely to encounter it. If you’re exposed to this in pregnancy, call your OB provider to get blood work done to check your immune status. If you are not immune, repeat blood work will be done to see if an exposure has occurred.

HIV and hepatitis B

All OB patients are encouraged to have these tests done at the first OB visit. If a patient is a hepatitis B carrier, it is crucial the baby gets the hepatitis B vaccine and immune globulin immediately after delivery. If a patient has HIV, treatment during pregnancy is essential to reduce the chances that HIV will be passed to the baby.

Common bacterial infections

Strep throat, sinus and ear infections, bronchitis and pneumonia are all common winter illnesses. Most antibiotics used to treat these conditions are safe in pregnancy, so don’t be afraid to take medication if cleared by your OB doctor.

As winter creeps up on us, get your flu shot, find a bigger winter coat to grow into and make sure to have comfortable winter boots so you don’t slip on the ice…and let the snow fall!

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