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10 Tips for Preventing Infections Before and During Pregnancy

Prevent Infections for Baby's Protection

Some infections before and during pregnancy can hurt both you and your developing fetus. They can cause serious illness, birth defects, and lifelong disabilities, such as hearing loss or learning problems. Here are 10 tips to help prevent infections before and during pregnancy:

  1. Protect yourself from Zika virus.
    Zika virus can be passed from a pregnant woman to her fetus during pregnancy or to her baby around the time of birth. Zika virus infection during pregnancy can cause microcephaly (a birth defect where a baby’s head and brain are smaller than babies of the same age and sex) and other severe brain defects.

    If you are pregnant, do not travel to areas with Zika.
    • If you must travel to an area with Zika, talk to your doctor or other healthcare provider first and strictly follow steps to prevent mosquito bites during the trip.
    • If you have a partner who lives in or has traveled to an area with Zika, use condoms from start to finish, every time you have sex (vaginal, anal, or oral) to protect against infection or do not have sex during the pregnancy.

    If you are trying to become pregnant
    Illustration of pregnant woman with her doctor
  2. Wash your hands with soap and water after the following:
    • Using the bathroom
    • Touching raw meat, raw eggs, or unwashed vegetables
    • Preparing food and eating
    • Gardening or touching dirt or soil
    • Handling pets
    • Being around people who are sick
    • Getting saliva (spit) on your hands
    • Caring for and playing with children
    • Changing diapers
      Learn more about washing your hands.

  3. Wash your hands often when around children.
    Their saliva and urine might contain a virus. It is likely harmless to them, but it can be harmful to your unborn baby. Learn more about cytomegalovirus (CMV).

  4. Avoid unpasteurized (raw) milk and foods made from it.
    Do not eat soft cheeses, such as feta, brie, and queso fresco, unless they have labels that say they are pasteurized. Unpasteurized products can contain harmful bacteria. Learn more about Listeria.

  5. Do not touch or change dirty cat litter.
    Have someone else do it. If you must change the cat litter yourself, be sure to wear gloves and wash your hands afterwards. Dirty cat litter might contain a harmful parasite. Learn more about toxoplasmosis.

  6. Stay away from wild or pet rodents and their droppings.
    Have a pest control professional get rid of pests in or around your home. If you have a pet rodent, like a hamster or guinea pig, have someone else care for it until after your baby arrives. Some rodents might carry a harmful virus. Learn more about lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LCMV).

  7. Get tested for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), such as HIV and hepatitis B, and protect yourself from them.
    Some people that have HIV, hepatitis B, or an STD do not feel sick. Knowing if you have one of these diseases is important. If you do, talk to your healthcare provider about reducing the chance that your baby will become sick. Learn more about STDs.

  8. Talk to your healthcare provider about vaccinations (shots).
    Some vaccinations are recommended before you become pregnant, during pregnancy, or right after delivery. Having the right vaccinations at the right time can help keep you healthy and help keep your baby from getting very sick or having life-long health problems.
    Learn more about vaccinations.

  9. Avoid people who have an infection.
    If you have not yet had or did not have the vaccine before pregnancy, stay away from people who you know have infections, such as chickenpox or rubella.
    Learn more about chickenpox.

  10. Ask your doctor about group B strep.
    About 1 in 4 women carry this type of bacteria, but do not feel sick. An easy swab test near the end of pregnancy will show if you have this type of bacteria. If you do have group B strep, talk to your healthcare provider about how to protect your baby during labor.
    Learn more about group B streptococcus.


These tips can help you prevent infections that could harm you and your developing baby. You will not always know if you have an infection and sometimes you will not feel sick. If you think you might have an infection or think you are at risk, see your healthcare provider. Be sure to talk with your healthcare provider to learn more about safe food preparation, wearing insect repellent when outside, taking medicine, and other important topics.