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Infections during Pregnancy

Pregnancy brings about a lot of changes in the body that affect almost every system of the body. However, pregnancy can also increase one’s susceptibility to certain types of infections. In some cases, pregnancy may even increase the severity of the infections, turning mild symptoms into serious health complications. Infections during pregnancy may be bacterial or viral, and many of these infections are harmless and can be managed easily. For example, it is common to get a UTI in pregnancy and having a vaginal itch during pregnancy is also not out of the ordinary because of all the hormonal changes taking place in the body. On the other hand, there are many other types of infections that can lead to complications that pose severe risks for the mother and the child. 

The Increased Risk of Infections during Pregnancy- 

During pregnancy, a woman undergoes a number of physiological and immunological changes that can make the body more vulnerable to infections and serious complications. The immune system works harder during pregnancy as it protects two, which increases one’s susceptibility to certain types of infections. Apart from this, the hormonal fluctuations of the body can also increase one’s risk of developing certain types of urine infections, like UTIs in pregnancyPregnancy also puts pressure on the uterus as it expands to accommodate the growing foetus, which prompts the body to produce a hormone called progesterone. Progesterone helps relax the muscles of the uterus and the bladder, which may result in urine staying for too long in the body, leading to the development of a urinary tract or bladder infection while pregnant. Hormonal changes are also responsible for increasing the chance of developing yeast infection during pregnancy. For example, higher levels of oestrogen in the body are directly linked to an increase in instances where one develops yeast infection during pregnancy. 

Adverse Effect of Common Infections 

The increased vulnerability against infections during pregnancy can also lead to severe complications or health conditions that can adversely affect both, the mother and the baby. There are several types of infections that only pose a risk for the mother. They include  

Common infections during pregnancy due to hormonal, physiological and immunity changes can have adverse effects on both the mother and the developing baby.  

Infections that pose a risk to the mother- 

Urinary Tract Infections 

In pregnancy, a UTI is considered to be relatively common, due to the hormonal changes in the body. While UTIs are not generally considered dangerous, if not managed properly, UTIs can cause high blood pressure, and preterm deliveries, and can even become life-threatening if it spreads to the kidney.  


Vaginitis is often caused by bacterial or yeast infections during pregnancy. Some of the most common symptoms of vaginitis include abnormal vaginal discharge, vaginal itching, and pain. While these infections are usually not severe and are easily treated, they can lead to complications if left untreated.  

Postpartum Infections 

After childbirth, mothers may be at risk of postpartum infections. This can be due to vaginal tears or C-section deliveries. Infections may affect the uterus, the urinary tract, or the incision site.  

Infections that pose a risk to the baby 

  • TORCH Infection 

TORCH is an acronym for a group of infections that may potentially harm the developing foetus. These infections are primarily transferred to the baby from their mother who may have caught the infection. A TORCH infection in pregnancy may develop during gestation, at delivery, or after the birth of the baby. While these infections may not have severe symptoms in the mother, they can cause serious complications in the development of the baby.  

This group of infections includes: 

  • Toxoplasmosis 

  • Other infections such as parvovirus, chickenpox, Zika virus etc. 

  • Rubella (German measles) 

  • Cytomegalovirus (CMV)  

  • Herpes simplex virus (HSV) 

  • Slapped Cheek Syndrome 

This infection is caused by Parvovirus B19. While there are no serious symptoms, apart from a fever and rash for the mother, the baby's health can be significantly compromised. If it is contracted during the first half of pregnancycomplications such as anaemia in the baby may develop 

Infections that can affect both the mother and the baby 

Some infections may harm both the mother and baby. Although, these are usually treated with antibiotics and vaccines, early detection and prompt treatment minimises long-term risks. Some of these infections include- 

  • Syphilis  

  • Hepatitis 

  • HIV 

  • Group B streptococcus (GBS) 

  • Listeriosis  

Other Infections 

Due to the rapid changes taking place in the body during the pregnancy period, it is always advisable to be aware of all the associated risk factors. For example, the changes in the skin due to hormonal changes can cause conditions such as eczema, or cellulitis.   

Preventing Infections during Pregnancy 

Taking certain simple preventive measures goes a long way and can significantly reduce the chances of serious infections such as HSV or Toxoplasmosis during pregnancy. Some of these measures include: 

  • Good Hygiene: Frequent hand washing with soap and water is a fundamental practice. Keeping the genital area clean and dry can prevent infections like vaginitis.  

  • Safe Sex: If engaging in sexual activity, using protection to reduce the risk of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) is highly recommended.  

  • Prenatal Care: Attending regular prenatal check-ups to monitor the health of the baby and the mother and addressing any emerging issues. Following one’s healthcare provider's advice and getting recommended vaccinations is paramount. 

  • Food Safety: Avoiding undercooked or raw foods and practicing food safety measures helps prevent foodborne illnesses like toxoplasmosis.  

  • Travel CautiouslyIf travelling, research destinations for potential health risks and consult one’s healthcare provider for guidance. Further, it is advisable to avoid crowded places and maintain distance from infected individuals. 

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