Pregnant women need to be aware of and take precautions against several serious illnesses and diseases that could put their unborn baby at risk.

Protecting Yourself from Zika

Zika virus is a health concern for pregnant women, as it can pose a risk to their unborn babies. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Zika is typically spread by mosquitoes but can also be transmitted through sex with an infected partner. The virus is linked to birth defects including microcephaly, a serious condition that can cause a baby to be born with a large head and incomplete brain development. Other problems among infants whose mothers were infected with Zika during pregnancy have also been reported.

Many areas in the United States have the type of mosquitoes that can spread Zika virus. Talk with your healthcare provider about the virus and take preventive measures against mosquito bites.

Here are five things to know about Zika and how to prevent it.

Other Diseases that Pose Serious Health Risks in Pregnancy

  • German measles (rubella) or chicken pox: You’re probably already immune to these diseases, either because you had them as a child or have been vaccinated against them.
  • Group B strep and hepatitis B:You will be or may already have been screened for these.
  • Fifth disease: This viral disease is spread primarily by respiratory secretions such as saliva or mucus, and often results in a red rash on the arms, legs and cheeks. If you have a child in daycare or preschool where this infection often crops up, be sure to wash your hands after leaving the facility.
  • Whooping cough: If you didn’t get the Tdap (pertussis) vaccine before becoming pregnant, talk to your healthcare provider about when to have it done. Whooping cough is dangerous to a developing fetus and to newborns. Others who will regularly take care of your baby should also receive the vaccine to lessen the likelihood of a family member or caregiver transmitting the disease to your newborn.

Simple Precautions to Keep You and Baby Healthy

  • Stay away from raw or unpasteurized foods, which can carry illness-causing bacteria.
  • Don’t clean cat litter boxes or come in contact with other animal droppings; a parasite passed in cat feces can cause toxoplasmosis, a potentially deadly infection for a developing fetus.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water before and after preparing or eating food, after using the toilet, or after coming into contact with someone who is ill or a surface that may have been contaminated by someone who is ill.
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