Infections During Pregnancy

Infections are a part of normal life. We all suffer from the odd coughs and colds, and many women have experienced troublesome thrush (yeast infections) or cystitis.

Pregnancy is a time when some infections are more common than usual, and a time when other infections can present a particular risk either to the woman or her unborn baby. This article will review the more common and problematic infections that might affect pregnancy.

Coughs, Colds & Flus

Women are just as likely to get these during pregnancy. They are little threat to the pregnancy itself and all that is needed is symptom relief: lots of fluids, rest and TLC.

Inhaled decongestants are safe, but cough linctus should be avoided. It is quite safe to take paracetamol up to normal maximum doses (1g, four times per day). If a cough becomes productive with green phlegm, this may mean a bacterial infection needing antibiotics.

There are antibiotics that are safe during pregnancy, so be sure to tell any doctor you see that you are pregnant.

Vaginal Infections

Thrush
Pregnancy makes a woman more likely to get a thrush infection, most commonly caused by the yeast Candida albicans. This yeast is commonly found in the vagina in up to 16% of non-pregnant women and 32% during pregnancy.

It does not always cause symptoms and only requires treatment if it causes troublesome itching, soreness or the typical thick, white discharge. It is more common in second and subsequent pregnancies, in the third trimester, during summer months, following a course of antibiotics and in diabetic women.

Treatment with Clotrimazole (Canesten) vaginal suppositories is usually effective. The tablet treatment Fluconazole (Diflucan) is not advised during pregnancy.

Men can be affected by thrush, it causing a redness and soreness of the glans of the penis, with a pin-point spotty appearance. Thrush affecting men is a lot less common than for women and it is even less frequent for a man to act as a 'reservior' of infection where the woman keeps getting it back from him.

It is not necessary for your partner to get treatment unless they have symptoms.

Group B Streptococcus (GBS)
Group B streptococcus is a bacterium that around 15-20% of pregnant women carry in the vagina, usually causing no problems at all. In a small number of cases, the bug is passed to the baby during delivery and it can lead to a blood-borne infection or even meningitis.

This condition affects only 3 per 10,000 babies in the UK. The incidence is much higher in the US, so they have developed a comprehensive screening programme for GBS.

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