Infections during pregnancy impact newborn development - OBGYN

Prompt medical consultation upon experiencing any symptoms is strongly advised as early detection allows for timely treatment, potentially averting severe complications.

03 Mar 2024 02:30pm
Photo for illustration purposes only - 123RF
Photo for illustration purposes only - 123RF

KUALA LUMPUR - Pregnancy is a remarkable journey, yet it brings unique challenges, notably impacting a woman's immune system and rendering her more vulnerable to infections.

Resident Consultant Obstetrician, Gynaecologist and Urogynaecologist Obstetrician at the country’s largest private quaternary hospital, Sunway Medical Centre, Sunway City Dr Tan Gaik Imm shared that expectant mothers need to steer clear of infections during pregnancy, as they can lead to exacerbated symptoms and potential harm to the foetus or newborn.

She said infections contracted during pregnancy can jeopardise healthy foetal growth, precipitate premature birth, or even result in pregnancy loss.

"Furthermore, if the pregnant mother developed an infection, especially during the early stages of her pregnancy, this could lead to specific congenital infections in the newborn, which include problems with eyes, hearing, brain and heart development, as well as skin infections,” she said in a statement in conjunction with International Prenatal Infection Prevention Month, which is observed each year in February.

Prompt medical consultation upon experiencing any symptoms is strongly advised by Dr Tan, as early detection allows for timely treatment, potentially averting severe complications.

Dr Tan outlined various sources through which pregnant women may contract infections, including interpersonal contact, animals, mosquitoes, food, or sexual activity, adding that common infections during pregnancy encompass Influenza, Diphtheria, Pertussis, Cytomegalovirus, Rubella, Varicella Zoster, Tetanus, Toxoplasmosis, and Listeria.

To mitigate the risk of infection during pregnancy, Dr Tan recommends adhering to stringent hygiene practices such as frequent handwashing, especially after using the restroom, changing diapers, handling animals, or preparing food.

Additionally, pregnant women should refrain from sharing food, drinks, or eating utensils with others and ensure their vaccinations are up-to-date.

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Lifestyle modifications play a pivotal role in infection prevention during pregnancy, including vaccination against specific infections, dietary adjustments, rigorous hygiene practices, cautious travel, and practising safe sex.

Dr Tan underscored the importance of vaccination in preventing serious infections, advocating for updated vaccinations against measles, mumps, rubella, chickenpox, and hepatitis B unless immunity from prior infections is established.

"Getting a vaccine can prevent certain serious infections. Women should be up to date with their vaccinations against measles, mumps, rubella, chicken pox and hepatitis B, unless they already have an immunity system from a previous infection before getting pregnant,” she said.

Expectant mothers are also advised to avoid travelling to regions where infectious diseases are prevalent and take precautions against mosquito bites by using insect repellent, wearing long-sleeved attire, and staying indoors during dusk.

While travelling during pregnancy is generally safe, the mother as well as the father should exercise caution when visiting areas with prevalent infections such as dengue and malaria.

"It is usually safe to travel during pregnancy, but practice caution if there is a necessity to travel to certain areas where infection can be a concern. These infections include common mosquito-borne diseases such as dengue and malaria,” she said.

International Prenatal Infection Prevention Month is a worldwide observance to promote awareness of infections transmitted from mother to baby. Prenatal infections include bacterial or viral illnesses that can be passed from a mother to her baby during pregnancy or the delivery process.

Sunway Medical Centre, Sunway City, the flagship hospital of Sunway Healthcare Group, is the largest private quaternary hospital in Malaysia with 724 licensed beds. For more information on SMC, please visit - BERNAMA

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