For a pregnant mom, catching a common illness like a cold or the flu can raise concerns about harm to the baby. But these everyday illnesses don't typically threaten a developing infant.
There are, however, some less common viral and parasitic infections that can indeed cause fetal problems like slow growth, and even birth defects. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), here are a few to watch for:
- Cytomegalovirus. This herpes virus present in bodily fluids is the most common type of virus transmitted to a developing infant. It is associated with disabilities like neural tube defects and Down syndrome.
- Rubella. More commonly known as German measles, this virus can cause birth defects like mental retardation and hearing, sight, and heart problems. Luckily, German measles can be prevented via the Measles, Mumps, and Rubella (MMR) vaccine.
- Chickenpox. Exposure to this virus during the first or second trimester is associated with a small chance of congenital varicella syndrome, which can include limb malformation, scarring, growth problems, and mental disabilities.
- Toxoplasmosis. Infection with this parasite during pregnancy is associated with brain defects and hearing and sight loss. The parasite can be present in undercooked meat and cat feces.