You're pregnant, and you're sick. Can you pass your illness on to your baby? When it comes to minor illnesses like a cold, your baby is just fine. But there actually are a number of more serious diseases that can cross the placenta and affect your baby. They are known as congenital infections. If you're under a doctor or midwife's close care, they'll probably already be looking out for these diseases. But just so you're aware, here's what you should know.
A handy acronym will remind you of the main congenital infections: TORCH. It stands for the following:
Toxoplasmosis: If you're infected before becoming pregnant, your baby will not become infected with the disease and will have immunity to it. If you become infected during pregnancy, however, you can pass it on. It's common to have few or no symptoms, but the infection can cause serious eye and brain damage.
Other infections: Syphilis, hepatitis B, Coxsackie virus, Epstein-Barr virus, chicken pox, human parvovirus, and HIV. Chicken pox can cross over during early pregnancy and cause birth defects. Coxsackie can have few to no symptoms for mothers yet be fatal to her baby. It can lead to other dangerous infections. Beware of Lyme disease as well. According to the CDC, Lyme disease during pregnancy can infect the placenta and even lead to stillbirth in some cases.
Rubella: This infection can lead to cataracts, heart defects, deafness, and mental retardation; many of us are inoculated against rubella as children.
Cytomegalovirus (CMV): The most common congenital infection, CVM can lead to hearing loss as well as other problems and can even be fatal.
Herpes simplex virus: This is another illness that can have mild or no symptoms for mothers and yet be dangerous for babies.
Can you pass the flu on to your unborn baby? No, although influenza can cause mothers health issues that can affect the overall health of a pregnancy. The flu can lead to preterm labor and premature birth, for example. It is safe to take a flu shot during pregnancy, and the shot can even provide some protection for your baby after birth.
Are there other illnesses you're worried about passing on to your baby?
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