Illness During Pregnancy

No one likes to be sick at the best of times, but during pregnancy, even the common cold can present challenges for the mom-to-be and affect the developing fetus. While permanent damage is rarely done by common illnesses, pregnant women should attempt to remain healthy and should seek the advice and treatment of a doctor in the case of illness. Many medications and over-the-counter remedies contain ingredients that may be harmful to an unborn child. In addition, there are some illnesses which can have devastating effects if a woman contracts them during pregnancy.

What if I get chicken pox while I'm pregnant?

When a pregnant woman becomes infected with the chicken pox virus, she and her baby are at great risk. In the mother, the infection can become complicated by pneumonia. In the baby, there are risks for birth defects of the muscles and/or bones, malformed or paralyzed limbs, a smaller than normal head, blindness, seizures or mental retardation.


If a pregnant woman comes in contact with someone who has chicken pox, she should call her doctor immediately. An injection may be needed to keep her and her baby safe.

If a pregnant woman has had chicken pox prior to pregnancy, experts say not to worry, as she has developed antibodies. Still, she should inform her doctor that she's been exposed.

How can toxoplasmosis affect pregnancy?

Toxoplasmosis is an infection caused by parasites from uncooked meat or from contact with the feces of a cat. Infection during pregnancy can lead to a number of brain and nervous system disorders in the unborn child. Because the symptoms resemble the flu, toxoplasmosis can be hard to diagnose. A blood test is available to determine if toxoplasmosis is present.

To avoid infection, cook meats thoroughly, wash fruits and vegetables before eating and have someone else change the cat's litter box.

Fifth Disease and Pregnancy

Fifth Disease (erythema infectiosum) is a mild, common childhood illness that is spread by airborne respiratory droplets. Symptoms include flushed cheeks, a rash on the face, mild fever, headache and sore throat. Joint pain usually accompanies other symptoms.

Although most babies are not affected by the disease, it can be serious when they are. Fifth Disease disrupts the baby's ability to produce red blood cells, leading to dangerous forms of anemia, heart failure and, though less frequently, infant death. There is a blood test that can determine if a woman has the illness, but it is not widely available.

If you are pregnant and have been exposed to Fifth Disease, you should consult your physician immediately.