All About Infections in Pregnancy

In pregnancy, your levels of immunity are lower so it’s important to protect yourself from infections and foodborne illnesses. Let’s run through the infections you need to be mindful of and how you can minimise your risk of infection.

Viral infections

There are a number of common viruses that you may be exposed to during your pregnancy that cause flu-like symptoms if you become infected, including rubella, parvovirus, cytomegalovirus, and influenza.

Influenza can safely be prevented by immunisation during any stage of pregnancy and rubella can be prevented by immunisation before pregnancy. If you come into contact with someone who has rubella, let your LMC know. Rubella is also routinely screened in antenatal blood tests.


Foodborne infections

Listeria is a bacteria that can be found in soil, water, animal faeces, and can contaminate raw or pre-prepared foods. The disease caused by listeria – listeriosis – puts your pēpi at greater risk as it can cause miscarriage, early labour or for a baby to be born with the infection.

Salmonella is a bacteria that can be found in raw eggs and raw meat and can cause an infection called salmonellosis. This infection may cause vomiting, diarrhoea, fever, and abdominal cramps which can put your baby at risk.

You should also watch out for campylobacter which can be contracted from contaminated foods, especially raw poultry and unpasteurised dairy products.

Toxoplasmosis is a parasite infection caused by the parasite eggs found in undercooked meat, unwashed vegetables, deli meats, unpasteurised (raw) milk, or in garden soil or sand with cat faeces. This infection can cause eye and brain damage in unborn babies.


Tips for avoiding infection

  • Always wash and dry your hands thoroughly, especially before preparing or eating food, after using the toilet, changing nappies, or touching pets.
  • Avoid high-risk foods and follow food safety guidelines for pregnancy like washing fruit, vegetables and homemade salads, and cooking meat, fish, and poultry until piping hot.
  • Keep to ‘use by’ and ‘best before’ dates, and store food as directed.
  • Change dishwashing cloths and tea towels regularly.
  • Ensure sandpits are covered to prevent cats from soiling the sand. Be careful when handling cat litter or when gardening too – always wear rubber gloves and thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water once finished.
  • Avoid contact with ewes and newborn lambs as they can carry an infection that may lead to miscarriage.


Urinary Tract Infections (UTI)

A UTI is a bacterial infection of the urinary system. Common symptoms include frequent urination, burning or stinging when going wee/mimi, pain in the lower abdomen, blood in urine, and cloudy or smelly urine. It’s important to see a doctor right away if you think you have a UTI, as leaving it untreated can result in the infection spreading to your kidneys which puts you at an increased risk of preterm labour.

Once the UTI is confirmed from a urine sample, the most commonly recommended course of treatment is antibiotics. Be sure to let the doctor know you are pregnant so they can prescribe an appropriate medication that is safe for you to take.