During pregnancy, a mother needs to be careful of exposing herself to diseases which may affect her baby. Whilst most of the common illnesses she may encounter will not noticeably affect her baby, (there is still much debate about exactly how much a baby is affected by general maternal illness) there are definitely some serious infectious diseases which can have severe effects upon a foetus or a newborn.
Keeping mother healthy and strong is always the best insurance for keeping baby that way too. The best prevention against all illnesses is to strengthen your own immune system and, in addition, one should also try to reduce exposure factors by not frequenting the sorts of places where sick people hang out or where threatening diseases may lurk. Hospitals and doctors surgeries are the most obvious ones! But interestingly, many of the diseases most dangerous to your baby are to be found in other young children. Here it is the baby health clinics, child care centres, pre-schools and primary schools which are the main danger zones. Outside of such institutions, precaution should also be exercised in the close company of all sick children and adults.
If you do come down with any unusual symptoms during your pregnancy, (and
often if you don’t) a doctor is likely to recommend tests for many of the following diseases, just to be on the safe side. All such tests are optional and, before agreeing, you should be informed of the upsides and downsides of each test, both upon yourself and your baby. In some instances, even without any testing, the insurance of vaccination against such diseases is recommended. Here, your own views on vaccination will come into play. Discussion on this topic is included in Chapter 6 – “The Issue of Vaccination”, page 429. My own opinion is that unless you have any obvious and serious symptoms which you suspect may affect your baby, a pregnant woman should not become involved in routine medical testing, neither should she spend time worrying about the tiny risks of such diseases.
Exposure of the pregnant woman to the chickenpox virus can lead to miscarriage during the first 2 months of term, with an increasing risk of birth defects and neo-natal problems if exposure occurs up to about 20 weeks of pregnancy. Chickenpox is a very common childhood illness that is easily detected. Although it incubates for up to 2 weeks unseen, it is only contagious – and therefore dangerous to a pregnancy – when the spots are present. A pregnant woman should avoid all contact with any known or suspected sufferers and their family until confirmed as no longer infectious.