In a natural pregnancy, most women find out that they are pregnant when they miss a period. By the time this first natural sign occurs, the patient is already two or three weeks pregnant. This theoretically means that women could be infected with a disease that could be transmitted from mother to child before falling pregnant or during the pregnancy. This type of transmission is called the vertical transmission.
Undergoing different types of medical examinations before starting a fertility treatment is a must. Infections may be detected and treated before pregnancy and thus prevent vertical transmission.
In a blood sample, infections such as Toxoplasmosis, Cytomegalovirus, and Rubella can be detected. Sometimes the disease is active or immunity can be determined. These three diseases are tested for the baby’s sake as they can cause malformations.
In addition, it is important to rule out diseases like Syphilis, HIV and Hepatitis B and C. We will look at each infectious disease stated.
Nowadays, all pregnant women are tested for HIV in order to take appropriate measures that reduce the risk of transmission of the disease to the child, should the mother be infected with the virus.
During pregnancy and birth, vertical transmission of HIV is possible especially just before birth, during birth and while breastfeeding. If the pregnant woman is HIV positive, she has to undergo antiretroviral therapy to minimize the risk of infection. Visits to an HIV specialist are always important for these patients, but even more essential during pregnancy.
A planned caesarean section is almost always scheduled for HIV positive women. The caesarean section reduces the risk of transmission to 1- 2%. It is advised not to breastfeed the baby, because infants of HIV-infected women may become infected postnatally in an estimated 7-22% of all cases.
Toxoplasmosis is an infection caused by a protozoan parasite. The most common forms of infection are caused by consumption of raw or semi-raw meat, infected fruit or through the contact with animals, especially young animals that have not yet been deparasitized. The danger of toxoplasmosis in pregnancy depends mainly on the time at which the woman has been infected with it. Toxoplasmosis is a risk to the unborn baby if caught for the first time if during the weeks before getting pregnant, or when pregnant. The women who have been in contact with the pathogen before this time develops antibodies against toxoplasma and in almost all cases the child will be protected from infections.
Similar to toxoplasmosis, a rubella infection is especially dangerous if the woman is infected during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. The transmission of this infection to the baby during this time can have serious consequences on eyesight, hearing ability and the heart of the baby.
An effective protection against rubella is vaccination. In case of an infection they have to take medication and the reproductive treatment is postponed by the time of treatment of the infection.
Measles is more known as a childhood disease; however, it can affect adults as well. The transmission of the infection is dangerous during the first few weeks of pregnancy and the risk of malformations is not as high as with the rubella virus, but the risk exists.
The most dangerous time of contracting measles is three days before you see the first signs of infection, so it is very difficult to prevent. The transmission of the infection occurs through the air – because the virus is released while speaking or coughing.
Varicella can be dangerous for pregnant women, but only if they never had it before. However, almost 95% of all women of fertile age have already had the infection. Those women who have never had varicella need to be vaccinated before getting pregnant.
Hepatitis- B-Virus (HBV)
Hepatitis B virus is the most common viral infection. Infection occurs through contact with an infected person’s blood or body fluids. Hepatitis B vaccination is strongly recommended as this disease is asymptomatic in 75% of all cases. If the pregnant woman is infected, vertical transmission more frequently takes place in the last trimester of pregnancy. However, the greatest risk of infection is during delivery (about 70-95%), unless the baby is born by caesarean section. The probability of infection of the child via breast milk is about 5%. Vaccination of the mother or child shortly after birth significantly reduces the risk.
It is always a good idea to plan your pregnancy in order to carry out the basic testing and to be able to take appropriate measures. Our team at ProcreaTec ensures that our patients undergo all necessary examinations to decrease the risk for the mother and the baby.