Posts Tagged ‘sexually transmitted infections’

Can you prevent infections during pregnancy?

Monday, October 16th, 2017

There are some infections that you can get either before or during pregnancy that may cause complications for you and your baby. You can’t always prevent infections, but here are some tips that can help:

Wash your hands: Washing your hands regularly can help to reduce the spread of colds, the flu and other infections, like cytomegalovirus (CMV).

Wash your hands:

  • Before preparing or eating food
  • After handling raw meat, raw eggs or unwashed vegetables
  • After being around pets or animals
  • After changing diapers, wiping runny noses, or picking up toys

Prepare food properly: Handle foods safely whenever you wash, prepare, cook and store them. Wash knives, cutting boards and dishes used to prepare raw meat, fish or poultry before using them for other foods. Foods to avoid during pregnancy include raw meat, fish, and eggs and unpasteurized foods.

Get vaccinated: Vaccinations can help protect you and your baby from certain infections during pregnancy. Some vaccinations are safe to get during pregnancy, but others are not. Talk to your provider to make sure any vaccination you get during pregnancy is safe. Make sure your vaccinations are up to date before you get pregnant.

Protect yourself from Zika: If you get infected with the Zika virus during pregnancy, you can pass it to your baby. It causes a birth defect called microcephaly and other brain problems. Zika virus spreads through mosquito bites and through body fluids, like blood and semen.

  • If you’re pregnant or trying to get pregnant, don’t visit a Zika-affected area unless absolutely necessary.
  • Protect yourself from mosquito bites.
  • If your male or female partner may be infected with Zika, use a barrier method (like a condom) every time you have sex or don’t have sex at all.
  • If you’re pregnant and think you may have been exposed to Zika virus, see your health care provider right away.

Ask someone else to clean your cat’s litter box: If you have to do it yourself, wear gloves. Wash your hands thoroughly when you’re done emptying the litter. Dirty cat litter may contain toxoplasmosis, an infection caused by a parasite. Toxoplasmosis can cause health problems for your baby during pregnancy.

Get tested for sexually transmitted infections (STIs): STIs are infections you can get from having unprotected sex with someone who’s infected. If you’re pregnant and have an STI, it can cause serious problems for your baby, including premature birth and birth defects. Testing for STIs is a part of prenatal care. If you have an STI, getting treatment early can help protect your baby.

Talk to your health care provider: Talk to your provider about how to prevent infections, making sure that you’re up-to-date on your vaccinations before pregnancy, and what vaccinations you need during pregnancy.

Have questions? Text or email us at Askus@marchofdimes.org.

Take care of your reproductive health

Monday, September 11th, 2017

If you’re planning to get pregnant in the future, it’s important that you take care of your reproductive health now.

Visit your health care provider regularly

Make sure you have an annual checkup with your provider. Your provider will most likely:

  • Give you a physical exam that includes taking your weight and checking your blood pressure
  • Give you a pelvic exam. This is an exam of the pelvic organs, like the vagina, cervix, uterus and ovaries, to make sure they’re healthy.
  • Do a Pap test. This is a medical test in which your provider collects cells from your cervix to check for cancer.

Protect yourself from sexually transmitted infections (STIs)

An STI is an infection that you can get from having unprotected vaginal, anal or oral sex with someone who is infected. Many people with STIs don’t know they’re infected because some STIs have no signs or symptoms. Nearly 20 million new STI infections happen each year in the United States. Here’s what you can do to protect yourself from STIs:

  • Don’t have sex. This is the best way to prevent an STI.
  • If you do have sex, have safe sex. Have sex with only one person who doesn’t have other sex partners. If you’re not sure if your partner has an STI, use a barrier method of birth control, like a male or female condom or a dental dam. A dental dam is a square piece of rubber that can help protect you from STIs during oral sex.
  • Get tested and treated. The sooner you’re treated, the less likely you are to have complications from your infection.
  • Ask your partner to get tested and treated. Even if you get treated for an STI, if your partner’s infected he may be able to give you the infection again.

If you’re not ready to get pregnant, use birth control

More than half of all pregnancies in the United States are unplanned. Planning your pregnancy can help you have a healthy baby. If you’re planning to have a baby, you’re more likely to get healthy before you get pregnant and to get early and regular prenatal care during pregnancy. If you’re not ready for pregnancy, birth control options include:

  • Abstinence. This means you abstain from (don’t have) sex. Abstinence is the only birth control that’s 100 percent effective. This means it prevents pregnancy all the time.
  • Intrauterine devices (IUDs). An IUD is a small, plastic T-shaped device that your provider puts in your uterus. Hormonal IUDs contain progestin and last for 3-5 years. Non-hormonal IUDs contain copper and can work for up to 10 years.
  • Implants. An implant is a tiny rod that contains progestin and is inserted into your arm. The rod is so small that most people can’t see it. Implants can last for about 3 years.
  • Hormonal methods. These methods, like implants, non-copper IUDs, the pill and the patch, contain hormones that prevent you from releasing an egg. Without the egg, you can’t get pregnant.
  • Barrier methods. Condoms and diaphragms are barrier methods because they work by blocking or killing your partner’s sperm so it can’t reach your egg.

Have questions? Email us at AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

Premature rupture of membranes – PROM

Friday, January 13th, 2012

In premature rupture of membranes (PROM), the sac inside the uterus that holds the baby breaks too soon. If PROM occurs before 37 weeks of pregnancy, it is called preterm premature rupture of membranes (PPROM). With few exceptions, once the membrane ruptures a woman usually delivers her baby within one week.

In a full-term pregnancy, membranes rupture because their strength and elastic qualities have weakened over time and the force of contractions becomes too difficult to withstand. Before term, however, membranes can rupture for some reasons we understand and for other reasons we still haven’t figured out.

Research suggests that many cases are triggered by the body’s natural response to certain infections, including those involving amniotic fluid and fetal membranes like the placenta. However, in about half of all cases of premature birth, providers are unable to uncover why a woman delivered prematurely.

Some contributing factors to PPROM are previous preterm birth, sexually transmitted infections, vaginal bleeding, and smoking cigarettes. (That’s right, smoking cigarettes has been linked to PPROM. So here is another good reason to try to quit.) Women who receive late or no prenatal care also may be at higher risk for PPROM.

Preterm PROM is not only dangerous for the baby who will be born premature, but it can also pose a serious threat to the mom because it increases her risk of infection. Chorioamnionitis is a uterine infection that can cause a high fever, pain and a rapid pulse and it is important to receive treatment to avoid this. One study suggests that this infection also may increase a preterm or full-term baby’s risk for cerebral palsy.

The most common signs of PROM are a gush of water from the vagina or steady leaking, a constant wetness in your underwear no matter how many times you change it. If you experience any symptoms, check in with your doc or midwife right away. They can analyze the fluid, check your cervix, even do an ultrasound to see if something serious is going on.

Genital herpes and pregnancy

Tuesday, June 22nd, 2010

Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) that can cause serious health problems in infected newborns. Approximately 45 million Americans have genital herpes. Up to 1 million new cases occur each year, including about 1,200 to 1,500 in newborns.

While most women with genital herpes have healthy babies, a small number pass the virus on to their babies during labor and delivery. For this reason, it is especially important for pregnant women to recognize the symptoms of genital herpes and to seek immediate medical treatment if they think they could be infected. Pregnant women should tell their health care provider if they have had herpes in the past, so the provider can take any necessary steps to protect their babies from the infection.

Herpes is caused by herpes simplex viruses (HSVs), which are similar to the viruses that cause chickenpox and shingles. After the initial infection, HSVs can hide within nerve cells, where the body’s immune system cannot reach them. Then, under the right conditions, the viruses can launch new attacks.

Women who acquire genital herpes for the first time near the time of delivery have a 30 to 50 percent chance of passing the infection on to their babies during a vaginal delivery, whether or not they have symptoms. The risk is so high because a newly infected pregnant woman has not yet produced disease-fighting antibodies that could help protect her baby during delivery. Studies suggest that about 2 percent of pregnant women acquire herpes for the first time during pregnancy.

Women who have had herpes before pregnancy and have a flare-up or silent infection at the time of vaginal delivery have only about a 3 percent chance of infecting their babies. Sometimes, what appears to be a first, severe episode of herpes during pregnancy actually can be a flare-up of an old silent infection. These women have a low risk of infecting their babies. Blood tests sometimes can help determine whether a woman has a new infection or a recurrence of an old one.

If a pregnant woman has a history of genital herpes, her health care provider examines her carefully for any signs of infection when she goes into labor. When a woman has an active infection (primary or recurrent) at the time of delivery, her baby usually can be protected from infection by a cesarean delivery. A vaginal delivery is safe for most women with recurrent herpes as long as they don’t have signs of infection at delivery.

To learn more about signs and symptoms, health issues of the newborn and ways to try to prevent herpes transmission, read our fact sheet on genital herpes and pregnancy.

What is PROM?

Thursday, November 19th, 2009

Premature rupture of membranes (PROM) is the breaking open of the bag of waters surrounding the baby, the amniotic sac, before labor begins. If PROM occurs before 37 weeks of pregnancy, it is called preterm premature rupture of membranes (PPROM).  With few exceptions, once the membrane ruptures a woman usually delivers her baby within one week.

In a full-term pregnancy, membranes rupture because their strength has weakened over time and the force of contractions becomes too difficult to withstand.  Before term, however, membranes can rupture for some reasons we understand and for other reasons we still haven’t grasped.  Some contributing factors to PPROM are previous preterm birth, sexually transmitted infections, vaginal bleeding, and smoking cigarettes.   That’s right, smoking cigarettes has been linked to PPROM.  So here is another good reason to quit. Women in a lower socioeconomic setting may be at higher risk for PPROM if they receive late or no prenatal care.

Preterm PROM is not only dangerous for the baby who will be born premature, but it can also pose a serious threat to the mom because it increases her risk of infection.  Chorioamnionitis is a uterine infection that can cause a high fever, uterine pain and rapid pulse and it is important to receive treatment to avoid this.

The most common signs of PROM are a gush of water from the vagina or steady leaking, a constant wetness in your underwear no matter how many times you change it.  If you experience any symptoms, check in with your doc or midwife right away.  They can analyze the fluid, check your cervix, even do an ultrasound to see if something is going on.

To learn more about preterm birth, read our fact sheet.