A few diseases can be passed from mother to the child or contracted by the child during pregnancy, delivery or breast feeding. This can be prevented by appropriate treatment and management.
1. Hepatitis B.
This disease is caused by Hepatitis B virus and can spread from adult to adult, children to children, children to adult (vice versa) and from mother to offspring. The spread is usually through blood, blood products, semen and vaginal fluids and breast milk.
A mother can also pass the infection to the child in the womb but this is rarely. Infection of the child occurs more during delivery if the mother’s blood passes into the child blood, or the child swallows some of the mother’s blood or by innoculation. The virus also passes from mother to child through breast milk.
We would like to emphasise that these mothers are mostly the virus carriers – that is – they have the virus in their body but are not sick of the disease.
The infection of the baby by the mother can be prevented if the doctor is aware of the condition of the woman and appropriate management applied – like method of delivery and full vaccination of the child against Hepatitis B.
2. Hepatitis C
The disease is caused by Hepatitis C virus and spreads mainly through transfusion of blood and blood products, sexual intercourse and during child birth. The spread from mother to child occurs during delivery through passing of the mother’s blood into the child’s blood or through slight open wound to the child during delivery.
Prevention is possible if the mother was screened for Hepatitis C during ante-natal and appropriate measures taken to deliver the baby.
Syphilis is a very old disease caused by bacteria. Transmission is mainly during vaginal, anal or oral sexual contact. Also an infected pregnant woman can pass the disease to the unborn child – the bacteria pass through the placenta to the child in the womb. Such infection of the baby could lead to still birth, premature delivery or low birth weight. Sometimes the infected baby maybe born without any problem but if untreated may later develop serious problems like deafness, blindness due to cataract, epileptic attacks etc.
Pregnant women are usually tested for syphilis during antenatal and at delivery and given appropriate treatment if test is positive. Ante-natal case is therefore advised for every pregnant woman.
Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) Infection is caused by the Human Immunodeficiency Virus and spreads from an infected mother to child during the pregnancy, childbirth (delivery) and through breast milk. During pregnancy, the virus can pass through the placenta to the baby. During delivery, the blood of the infected mother could pass into the blood of the child thus infecting the child or the virus could pass into the child through any slight injury on the child’s body during the process of delivery. Transmission rate through breast milk is low and depends on duration of breast feeding. This can be prevented by appropriate management during pregnancy, delivery and breast feeding. Hence, ante-natal, hospital delivery and post- natal care are advised.
Malaria is one of the oldest diseases known to man and spreads from person to person in the main through mosquito bite but occasionally by transfusion of infected blood or blood products and from mother to child. During pregnancy the parasite could pass through the placenta to the baby. The rate of transmission from an infected mother to child during pregnancy is low, less than 5%. Such babies are said to have congenital malaria. Malaria is known to cause stillbirths, death of baby in the uterus, and death of baby within seven days of birth.
This can easily be prevented by ante-natal care; pregnant women are therefore advised to always go for ante -natal.
Gonorrhea is one of the commonest sexually transmitted diseases affecting both men and women in the 15 to 24 years age bracket.
It is the result, in most cases, of sexual indiscipline; it responds easily to treatment but if untreated can cause a lot of complications. If a pregnant woman with untreated gonorrhea gives birth through the vagina, the child’s eyes may be infected by gonorrhea. This could be serious.