Prevent prenatal infections
Protecting children begins the moment a mother learns she is pregnant.
Illnesses can affect children in the womb, and expecting parents should be aware of conditions that can affect the health of the fetus, also known as prenatal infections.
The organization Group B Strep International says that approximately one in four pregnant women carry GBS, the leading cause of sepsis and meningitis in newborns according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
GBS also can infect babies during pregnancy and the first few months of life. GBS as well as other conditions, such as cytomegalovirus, listeriosis and Zika virus, are serious health problems that can affect a fetus and expecting mothers.
Mothers can take various steps to protect themselves and their babies from infectious contagions.
The American Academy of Pediatrics and the CDC offer these tips to expecting parents.
Wash hands often. The single best way to prevent contraction and spread of any illness is through hand-washing. Use warm water and soap to wash hands before and after certain activities, such as preparing foods, eating and using the restroom and after coming in contact with surfaces that may be germ-ridden.
Cook meat to proper temperatures. Use a food thermometer to make sure the internal temperature of meats, poultry and fish are at the recommended levels for safety. Undercooked foods may contain harmful bacteria, such as listeria and E. coli.
Avoid unpasteurized dairy products. Feta, queso fresco, brie and other soft cheeses should be avoided unless the label specifically mentions pasteurization. Make sure yogurts and milks are pasteurized as well.
Skip raw sprouts. Listeria may be found on alfalfa, clover, radish, and mung bean sprouts unless they are thoroughly cooked.
Get tested for GBS. Doctors can swab you to see if you have this type of bacteria. If they learn you do, they will advise you on how to protect the baby during labor.
Stay away from Zika-prone areas. Avoid travel to areas of the world with known Zika outbreaks. If a spouse or partner has traveled to these areas, exercise extreme caution during sexual intercourse, as the disease can be transmitted this way as well.
Leave cat care to others. Dirty cat litter may contain a parasite that causes toxoplasmosis. Let someone else clean and tend to the litter box for the duration of your pregnancy.
These are just a few tips to help keep your fetus safe. Expecting parents can discuss other ways with their physicians.