Mon | Dec 17, 2018

Vaginal infections and pregnancy

Published:Monday | July 16, 2018 | 12:00 AMRocheda Bartley

Gynaecologist and obstetrician Kiri-an Bridgewater told Flair that hormonal changes in a woman's body during pregnancy increases her risk of getting sexually or non-sexually transmitted vaginal infections. The most common sorts are yeast, bacterial vaginosis (BV), group B streptococcus (GBS), chlamydia, gonorrhoea, and herpes simplex infections.

"Of these infections, yeast, otherwise called vaginal candidiasis, is the most prevalent. It presents a thick, clumpy, itchy vaginal discharge that irritates the vagina and causes burning when the woman urinates. This is because the hormonal changes increase the amount of discharge the vagina produces. Also, the vaginal secretions in pregnancy contain more sugar than in women who are not pregnant, and yeast feeds on sugar," the doctor explained.

Not all of these illnesses manifest warning signs, like GBS, BV, gonorrhoea, and chlamydia. Regardless, they can cause devastating effects on pregnancy, such as preterm membrane ruptures and delivery and infections of the baby's eyes, lungs, and the fluid around the brain.

"If GBS is identified early the woman can be given antibiotics in labour so that the baby will be unaffected. If not, the newborn baby will have an increased risk of serious infections, including meningitis," Bridgewater stated.

She also noted that because pregnancy is stressful for the body and weakens the female's immune system, women are more susceptible to herpes flares at this time. Herpes simplex infections can be passed on to the baby during childbirth. The upshot of this is infections of the fluid around the baby's brain, brain damage and complete blindness.

 

Prevention

 

Maintaining good personal hygiene practices during pregnancy is one of the major ways in which you can prevent infections, sparing yourself some irksome agonies. Second to this is sustaining a healthy sex life.

"Keeping the vagina as clean and dry as possible is what you need to do. Wearing underwear made of breathable fabrics such as cotton, and avoiding many layers of clothing and undergarments of synthetic material can also decrease her risk," she warned.

Bridgewater also cautioned against douching. Although it's intended to clean the vagina, it is likely to cause and even worsen some of these infections.

Fortunately after birth, our risk of getting vaginal infections returns to normal. By the sixth month after you have delivered your child your hormone levels and immune system will return to a pre-pregnancy state, ultimately lowering your chances of these illnesses.

rocheda.bartley@gleanerjm.com