Pregnancy Information Complications Infection

A number of bacterial and viral infections can affect fetal development and a woman’s health during pregnancy. The risk of infection due to influenza can be avoided with a flu vaccine. Bacterial infections may be treated with antibiotics, and many viral infections can be avoided by practicing good hygiene and other preventive measures.

During pregnancy, women may be tested to rule out certain bacterial and viral infections. In addition to the flu vaccine, other vaccines are available to protect against specific infections.

Viral Infections and the Flu Vaccine

Viral infections are common, and include both the common cold and influenza. Unlike bacterial infections, viral infections do not respond to antibiotics, so prevention is the best treatment.

Influenza: Influenza, or the flu, can adversely affect a pregnancy. Spread by close contact with infected people, influenza can make a pregnant woman quite ill. Flu vaccines are developed every year to combat the latest strains of influenza.

If a pregnancy begins between March and July, the pregnancy will occur during the winter influenza season. If so, a flu vaccine is generally recommended. A flu vaccine does not completely protect against influenza; however, if influenza is contracted during pregnancy, the flu vaccine will help prevent severe symptoms.

Cytomegalovirus Infections: Cytomegalovirus is one of the many viral infections spread by body fluids, including saliva and urine. Symptoms of a cytomegalovirus infection resemble those of mononucleosis when symptoms are present. Infections during pregnancy have been linked to learning disorders and growth problems in children.

Regular hand washing is the best way to prevent against cytomegalovirus infection.

Bacterial Infections and Pregnancy

Bacterial infections during pregnancy may require treatment with antibiotics. While many bacterial infections have no effect on fetal development, symptoms of bacterial and viral infections should always be reported to your doctor during pregnancy.

Streptococcal Bacterial Infections: Streptococcal bacterial infections are common. Streptococcal bacterial agents are often found on the skin and in the intestines. These bacterial agents may infect the baby during delivery, and can cause health difficulties. In order to prevent this, mothers who test positive are usually given antibiotics before birth.

Listeria Infections: Listeria infections are caused by bacterial agents in undercooked meat, soft cheeses and non-pasteurized dairy products. Listeria infections during pregnancy can cause fetal meningitis and fetal sepsis (blood infection).

Listeria bacterial infections can be prevented by avoiding any food that may contain the bacterial agents. All meat should be well cooked. Fruits and vegetables should be washed, and hands and kitchen surfaces should be washed frequently.


Toxoplasmosis is a parasitic infection that causes serious pregnancy complications. Infections damage the fetus, and may cause mental retardation, hearing problems and blindness.

Toxoplasmosis spreads by eating unwashed vegetables and undercooked meat. Infections are also commonly spread through contact with infected cat feces. Prevention of toxoplasmosis is similar to avoiding listeria infections. If cats are in the household, their litter should be cleaned by non-pregnant members of the family. Failing this, gloves should be worn while changing the litter box.

Sexually Transmitted Infections During Pregnancy

A number of STDs may affect fetal development during pregnancy. Both Gonorrhea and Chlamydia are bacterial infections that increase the risk of miscarriage and birth defects. Condom use is the best protection against sexually transmitted bacterial infections.

Hepatitis B is transmitted by unprotected sexual intercourse, contact with infected blood and the use of infected needles for certain types of drug abuse. Hepatitis B infections can cause fetal liver damage. A Hepatitis B vaccine may be given prior to pregnancy. After pregnancy, babies born to mothers with hepatitis B infections should be given the hepatitis B vaccine.

HIV viral infections are transmitted in the same manner as hepatitis B. HIV viral agents can pass through the placenta and infect the fetus. If a woman is HIV positive, medication may be prescribed during pregnancy to lower the chance of fetal infection.


Beers, M. H.,