New cases of ‘Whooping ‘ cough/Pertussis infections are on the rise in the US. The CDC reports 48,000 new Pertussis infections in 2012, the highest number since 1955. Pertussis infections can result in serious illness, especially for the newborn, where the condition can be life-threatening.
The CDC and ACOG recommend the Tdap vaccine (tetanus/diphtheria/pertussis) in pregnancy. The vaccine is considered safe in all trimesters of pregnancy, though recommended at 27-36 weeks gestation. Receiving the vaccine duringpregnancy improves the chances of your baby receiving ‘passive’ immunity from the infection. If the vaccine was not received during the pregnancy, vaccination in the immediate postpartum time period is the next recommendation. Close contact and the baby’s caregivers should also be vaccinated. Pregnant women should be re-vaccinated with each pregnancy.
Understandably, for many persons, a new diagnosis of genital herpes may lead to feelings of shock, shame, guilt or embarrassment. Often times, patients are unaware of how common this virus is among the general population. Some studies have shown up to 1 in 5 of sexually active people have been infected with the Herpes virus, whether they’re aware of it or not.
Genital herpes is a treatable condition. Aside from being sexually transmitted, much of the negative stigma around this infection seems to come from the fact that you don’t ‘get rid of’ it, and that recurrences can happen. Herpes is a viral infection (like HPV,) and though the symptoms (a cold sore in the case of oral herpes, or a genital sore in the case of genital herpes) can be treated, the virus itself remains present in our blood stream indefinitely. Even in its dormant state (no symptoms present,) the virus remains detectable by blood test, and can lead to partner-to-partner spread of infection (from asymptomatic shedding of the virus) when no detectable ‘sore’ is present. Gonorrhea and chlamydia, different from the Herpes virus and HPV, are bacteria or bacterial-like infections that are cured with treatment, with no detectable bacteria remaining after adequate therapy (unless the individual is ‘re-infected’.)
Though a diagnosis of genital herpes can be an embarrassing nuisance, it’s actually a newborn baby who’s at the most serious risks from a genital herpes infection. A newborn baby infected with genital herpes is at risk for multi-organ infection, that can be fatal if left untreated. If you are pregnant, with a known history of genital herpes, it’s important to let your healthcare providers know that information. Certain measures (anti-viral medications in the last month of your pregnancy, and performing a Cesarean section if active lesions are present at the time of labor) should be taken, to decrease the risk of spread of infection to your newborn baby.
Expecting and new mothers are faced with many decisions in preparation for the care of their newborn baby, the decision to breastfeed, being among one of the most important ones. We’ve all heard the advice of family and friends that “breastfeeding is better for the baby”, but how true do we really know this to be?
The fact is, it is true. Medical research has shown human breast milk, over formula feeding, to benefit the infant in several ways. Some of those benefits include, improvement in gastrointestinal functioning, improvement in immune defenses, thereby reducing the occurrences of several acute illnesses, and enhancing the maternal-infant bonding, possibly reducing infant stress. Because of the proven health benefits to infants, many national health organizations have recommended exclusively breastfeeding infants for the first 6 months of life (i.e., Academy of Pediatrics, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologist, The World Health Organization.)