Your Pregnancy MD
Pregnancy Week Seven
While you still won’t look very pregnant at 7 weeks pregnant, you will certainly feel pregnant. Your partner may start detecting slight changes in your body at this point in time. By now your favorite jeans are likely a little uncomfortable. If you find you are having trouble buttoning your pants, consider looping a rubber band around the button and through the fastener. This will give you a couple of extra inches and a lot more comfort during the early weeks of pregnancy.
You may start noticing your preferences for certain foods changes. It is quite normal for women to experiencing cravings. Cravings sometimes result when your body is deficient in certain nutrients, so if you are craving fruits and vegetables eat up! Many vegetarians find they eat meat for the first time when pregnant because their bodies crave the iron present in red meat.
At 7 weeks pregnant, you may start to experience a wide range of pregnancy symptoms. Morning sickness (nausea and vomiting) and fatigue are in full swing, and they can make your life truly unbearable. These two pregnancy symptoms are truly the hallmarks of the first trimester, but they’ll go away in the middle trimester.
If you’re suffering from morning sickness, another strange pregnancy symptom that might plague you is excessive saliva. You might notice that you’re producing more saliva than normal, and it’s also possible that you’re constantly spitting out saliva. This is another normal pregnancy symptom to expect in the first trimester. Researchers do not know what triggers this condition. It may be due to the increased levels of pregnancy hormones. It is also possible that because pregnant women are more prone to heartburn (another symptom of pregnancy), they produce more saliva to neutralize the gastric acid in their body. Saliva contains bicarbonate, which is an alkaline that will neutralize the gastric acid.
A metallic taste is a lesser-known symptom at 7 weeks pregnant. You may experience a disgusting metallic or sour taste in your mouth that lasts long after you’ve eaten. Although unpleasant, having a metallic taste in your mouth is absolutely normal in the first trimester. You can blame your pregnancy hormones and even your prenatal vitamins for this symptom. Fortunately, like nausea and vomiting in pregnancy, it should go away in your second trimester.
Taking a lot of Bathroom Breaks?
In the first trimester, because you have more blood being pumped through your kidneys, you will produce more urine than normal. Later in the pregnancy, as your uterus grows larger, it will place pressure on your bladder, so you will feel the urge to urinate, even though your bladder may be nearly empty!
A Few Other Symptoms
A few other symptoms you might notice now include breast tenderness, and crazy mood swings. Your early breast changes might make your breasts sensitive and even painful to touch, and your breasts may even be larger in size. Some women grow one bra size by the end of their first trimester!
Some women at 7 weeks pregnant might develop migraine headaches. As you continue your pregnancy you may notice your headaches increase in intensity. Some women prone to developing migraine headaches experience more headaches than usually. Fortunately many others find their migraine headache symptoms are much better during early pregnancy and throughout their pregnancy. Fortunately most headaches ease up after the first trimester.
Why so many headaches in early pregnancy? Pregnancy headaches including those associated with early pregnancy are largely the result of increasing dilation within the blood vessels in the brain. Remember as you continue your pregnancy your body produces double the blood volume it normally does. This can contribute to headaches as can rapidly fluctuating hormonal levels. Fortunately you can take some Tylenol to relieve headaches during pregnancy.
Other helpful remedies may include meditating, massage and
placing cold packs (or even a frozen bag of vegetables) on your head (this can
help relieve the throbbing and dilation of your blood vessels). For some women
simply lying down in a cool dark room helps alleviate headaches. Others find
acupuncture during pregnancy very helpful.
Headaches that are quite sever and come on later during pregnancy may signify other complications including possible preeclampsia or diabetes. Be sure you report any unusual headaches to your doctor. While most headaches are not a sign of something severe, occasionally headaches can be a warning sign that something is awry. With good prenatal care however most headaches, even those resulting from complications can be treated and alleviated very effectively.
Body Changes Associated with Pregnancy
The normal changes to your body are profound in pregnancy. Most of the changes begin with conception and will continue throughout your entire pregnancy. Even more astounding is that you will return almost completely to your pre-pregnancy state after giving birth. So let’s begin briefly discussing the major normal pregnancy changes.
1. Skin – The blood flow in the skin increases and helps dissipate excess heat generated by your pregnancy. This gives you the increase sensation of always being hot.
You may notice reddish, slightly depressed streaks in your skin. The streaks are most noticeable on your abdomen, thighs and breasts. They are called “striae gravidarum” or stretch marks.
Your skin will darken (hyperpigmentation) in up to 90 percent of pregnant women. Most commonly a brownish-black line will be noticed in the midline of your abdominal skin called the linea nigra. Sometimes you will get brownish patches that appear on the face and neck called melisma gravidarum or the mask of pregnancy. Most of the darken skin colorations will regress considerably after giving birth.
Two thirds of white and 10 percent of black pregnant women will notice small, fine red blood vessels on the skin. They have the appearance of a spider, with a central body and multiple blood vessel branches. This condition is called telangiectasis or spider angioma of pregnancy. They appear mostly on the neck and upper chest.
You may notice a darker red coloration to the palms of your hands. This is called palmar erythema and is the result of the increase blood circulation in your hands.
2. Breasts – Early in pregnancy you will experience many breast changes. Two of the first noticed changes are breast tenderness and increase in overall breast size. You will begin to notice an increase in delicate veins just beneath the skin. The nipples will become larger, a darker color and more erect. Around mid-pregnancy a yellowish fluid called colostrum can be expressed from your nipples. The areolae become deeply pigmented (darker) and wider. Around the nipple you will notice many new bumps (Montgomery glands) that are just your sebaceous glands enlarging. These tiny bumps secrete an oily substance that lubricates your nipples and aerolas.
3. Uterus – The uterus before pregnancy is the size of an egg and weighs 70 grams (2.4 ounces). By the end of pregnancy, the uterus has increased in weight to 1100 grams (2.4 pounds). In order to hold a full term baby, the capacity of the uterus has to increase 500 to 1000 times greater than when not pregnant.
During the first few weeks of pregnancy the uterus is pear shape, then becomes round by 12 weeks and subsequently assumes an egg shape. The uterus will also change positions and rotate to the right side of your abdomen. This will exert tension on the round ligaments that hold the uterus in place and causes a sharp pulling pain when you move quickly.
As your baby grows inside you and your uterus becomes larger, it puts more pressure on your bladder, making it feel like it’s full when it may be nearly empty.
As a result of your expanding uterus, you may begin to experience a dull ache in your buttocks that won’t go away. This is due to the weight of your uterus pressing against your lower spine and sciatic nerve—the nerve that travels from your lower back through your buttocks and into your leg.
4. Cervix – The cervix is the lower part of the uterus that the baby will pass through at childbirth. As soon as 1 month of pregnancy it begins to soften and turn a blue color (this is called Chadwick sign of the cervix). It becomes delicate (friable) and will bleed easily when touched during intercourse.
5. Ovaries – Ovulation stops during pregnancy and no new eggs are produced. An ovarian cyst will develop called the corpus luteum cyst of pregnancy. The function of the cyst is to produce hormones to support your pregnancy during the first 7 weeks. If the cyst is surgically removed, you would miscarry.
6. Vagina – The number of blood vessels in the vaginal wall increases in pregnancy. The increase in blood vessels makes the walls appear violet in color, called Chadwick sign of the vagina. You will notice a considerable increase in the amount of vaginal discharge that is white and thicker than when not pregnant. The pH of the vagina becomes more acidic (pH 3.5 to 6). The change in pH can result in an overgrowth of bacteria called Lactobacillus acidophilus. Lactobacillus keeps the normal balance of bacteria and yeast in the vagina.
7. Blood Volume – Your blood volume will increase 40 to 50 percent from when you are not pregnant. Some women may actually double their blood volume in pregnancy.
8. Heart – In pregnancy your heart is displaced more to the left side of your chest. Your resting pulse rate increases by 10 beats/minutes and cardiac output increases significantly.
9. Lungs – The diaphragm that supports the lungs rises up in pregnancy about 4cm. The circumference of your chest (thoracic circumference) increases by 6 cm. The up and down breathing motion or the distance the lungs transverse vertically is greater than when you are not pregnant. Your breathing rate does not change, but the amount of air that goes through your lungs increases significantly.
10. Kidneys – The size of your kidneys slightly increase in pregnancy. They are 1.5 cm longer than when you’re not pregnant. The ability of your kidneys to secrete more toxins is increased by 50 percent, resulting in frequent urination.
11. Stomach – The time it takes to empty your stomach (gastric emptying time) after a meal is prolonged. This gives you the full sensation after a small meal.
12. Heartburn (pyrosis) is common in pregnancy and is due to the reflux of acid from the stomach. Reflux is increased due to the relaxation of a valve or sphincter between the esophagus and stomach.
13. Gums – Your gums become hyperemic (swollen with blood) and soften. This is why your gums bleed more frequently in pregnancy after brushing your teeth.
14. Hemorrhoids – Hemorrhoids are very common in pregnancy. They are caused by the increased constipation commonly seen in pregnancy. Also, the increased pressure of the veins around the rectum in pregnancy contributes to hemorrhoid formation.
15. Gallbladder – The gallbladder’s ability to contract and secret digestive enzymes is slowed. Impaired emptying of the gallbladder is associated with increased bile salts entering the skin and causing itching. The slower emptying of the gallbladder can also increase the formation of gallstones and increase the chances of having a gallbladder attack.
16. Eyes – Your contact lens may not be as comfortable as they were before pregnancy. This is due to the fact that the cornea will slightly increase in thickness during pregnancy. You also will notice that it takes longer to focus when you change from looking at a near object to a distant object (called delayed accommodation) in pregnancy. Your vision otherwise remains the same as before pregnancy.
Pregnancy Weight Gain at 7 Weeks
Your pregnancy weight gain at 7 weeks pregnant is probably one or two pounds. It is still early in your pregnancy, but important changes are occurring in your womb.
Your Baby at 7 Weeks of Pregnancy
By pregnancy week 7 your baby grows in length up to 13 mm! Your baby is now closer to the size of a small raspberry than a kernel of corn!
Your baby’s placenta continues to develop, but it is not yet ready to supply your baby with its nutrients. The yolk sac still supplies nutrients to your developing baby, though it is shrinking in size.
This is an important time in the growth and development of your baby. Your baby’s facial features start to take shape. If you were to peer at your baby very closely you could actually start seeing a tiny mouth. Inside this mouth your babies tongue is starting to take shape. Your baby’s eyes also start taking on a more natural appearance, as the retina begins to shape and form. Your baby’s muscle and bone systems continue to develop as well.
Your baby’s body is even developing at a rapid pace during 7 weeks of pregnancy. Along with this your baby’s intestines, appendix and thin veins start to take shape and form. All the while your baby is happily bouncing about in his warm and cozy nesting place.
Last week, your baby’s heart started to beat. In week 7 of pregnancy, the heart is now starting to pump blood that will circulate throughout the body. The heart continues to mature and develop as the weeks of pregnancy pass. This is also the week that your baby’s liver starts to make blood cells.
Importance of Prenatal Care
Prenatal care is the type of medical care a pregnant woman gets throughout her pregnancy. As part of this, your doctor or midwife helps figure out when you’re due, monitors you for potential health problems and checks your baby to make sure she or he is growing normally. Additionally, during prenatal care they’ll discuss your pregnancy, labor and delivery with you, and then help you come up with a labor and delivery plan. Finally, they’ll do routine tests, checking out both you and your baby for various health conditions.
Your first prenatal visit
At your first prenatal visit, your doctor or midwife finds out about your medical and health history, and determines your due date. You can expect an exam, including what’s called a speculum exam. This is when a speculum, or rather a plastic or metal device, is placed in your vagina to hold the walls of your vagina open. This allows them to see your cervix. They’ll put one hand on your belly and then insert either one or two gloved fingers into your vagina. This allows them to check the size of your uterus and check your ovaries.
You may also do a series of tests including:
- Urine test
- Blood tests – Some check your general health, while others check for conditions, which could lead to problems in a mother or her baby.
- Lab testing of cell samples from your cervix – A cotton swab will be used to take a sample of cells from your cervix. These cells will then be tested for cancer of the cervix or infections.
- Ultrasound – This uses sound waves to translate pictures of your baby and the inside of a mother’s body. It’s used to see if you have more than one baby, and to check your due date.
Future prenatal visits
If you live in the United States, every prenatal visit will include your doctor or midwife doing these things:
- Checking your blood pressure – High blood pressure may lead to preeclampsia, a serious condition, or other problems.
- Checking your weight – The recommended weight you gain may depend, at least partly, on your pre-pregnancy weight.
- Answering your questions and asking about your symptoms
- Listening for your child’s heartbeat – Your doctor or midwife can hear your child’s heartbeat at around week 12 of your pregnancy.
- Measuring your uterus – Your uterus gets larger during pregnancy.
- Asking about your child’s movements – While women feel their child move at different times, most women do feel something by around week 20 of their pregnancy.
- Testing your urine for protein or sugar – Discovering protein or sugar in your urine may signal a more serious problem.
- Checking your child’s position – During the final trimester, expect your doctor or midwife to check on every visit your child’s position. They’ll want to know whether your child is head or buttocks down.
Other prenatal care testing
Other testing may be ordered during your pregnancy, including routine tests. This includes the tests all women have, and those only some women choose.
Tests may include:
- Checking for diabetes, or high blood sugar – This is when you drink a sugary drink and then have your blood drawn.
- Ultrasound – This checks the fluid surrounding your baby, your child’s organ development, your child’s growth and it checks the placenta.
- Vaginal discharge – This is fluid leaking from your vagina. The testing is to find an infection, if there is one.
- Testing for birth defects/other problems – There is an optional test for Down syndrome. This lifetime condition causes both learning and medical problems.
- Blood tests – This includes testing to find out your blood type and check to see if you have anemia. This may also include checking for infections that can be passed on to your baby, and potentially harm your child. These include hepatitis B, rubella and syphilis.
Frequency of checkups
The closer you get to your due date, the more frequent your visits to your doctor or midwife become. Commonly, though, this is how visits are scheduled:
- Once every 4 weeks until week 28 of pregnancy
- Every 2-3 weeks between then and week 36 of pregnancy
- Once per week until delivery
If you have a certain medical condition, you may need to go for checkups more often than this. You may also need additional testing of your medical condition as your pregnancy develops.
Routine Tests Performed in Pregnancy
When pregnant, there are a number of different lab tests that doctors recommend women undergo during their routine prenatal care. These tests are used to help discover any conditions which may increase your risk of complications during pregnancy, or risk of complications regarding your unborn child.
Common tests during early pregnancy
Early on in your pregnancy, you should expect a number of different tests. These include:
- Blood typing – This type of test shows the Rh factor. This is the type of protein found on red blood cells. While most people do have the Rh factor, it means they are Rh positive. If you don’t have the Rh factor, you are Rh negative. The problem comes when your unborn child is Rh positive and you are Rh negative. In this case, your body may actually make antibodies that work against the Rh factor. These types of antibodies may damage an unborn child’s red blood cells in a future pregnancy.
- Complete blood count, or CBC – This type of test discovers the number of types of cells in your blood. Counting red blood cells can help determine whether you have a type of anemia. Counting white blood cells can help determine the number of disease-fighting cells you have. Counting the number of platelets can show if there’s a problem concerning blood clotting.
- Urine culture – This type of test looks for bacteria. The presence of it may signal a urinary tract infection.
- Urinalysis – This type of test looks for red blood cells to find out if you have a urinary tract disease. It also looks for white blood cells to find out if you have a urinary tract infection. Finally, it looks for glucose because high levels of it could signal diabetes. In addition, the test also measures protein. The level found in early pregnancy may later be compared with your levels later on in your pregnancy. A high level of protein in your urine may signal preeclampsia. This is a serious problem that normally happens either in late pregnancy or even after giving birth.
- Hepatitis C and hepatitis B – Both hepatitis C and B are viruses which infect your liver. If a pregnant woman has either one she can pass the virus along to her baby. Every pregnant woman is tested for hepatitis B. If it turns out you have risk factors, your doctor may also want to test you for hepatitis C.
- Human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV – This type of test is for all women. If a woman has HIV, she can still pass it on to her unborn child. In the case of HIV, it attacks your body’s immune system cells, causing acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, also known as AIDS. If you are infected, and you’re pregnant, you’ll be given medication. You’ll also be advised of certain other steps you can take to help reduce the chance you’ll pass it along to your unborn child.
- Sexually transmitted diseases, or STDs – Every pregnant woman will be tested for both chlamydia and syphilis early on in her pregnancy. Both can lead to serious complications for a pregnant woman and her child. If either test comes up positive, you’ll be treated, and then tested again. Those with risk factors for gonorrhea will also be tested for it. Risk factors for gonorrhea include living in an area where it is common or a woman is age 25 or younger.
- Tuberculosis, or TB – Only women who are at a high risk of TB need to be tested. This includes women infected with HIV, and those who live close to someone with TB.
- Rubella – Also called German measles, rubella may cause birth defects if a woman becomes infected during her pregnancy. This type of test looks at your blood to find out if you’ve ever been infected with rubella, and if you’ve been vaccinated against it. If you’ve never had rubella and you haven’t been vaccinated, you need to avoid someone who has it during your pregnancy. Rubella is very contagious. If you’ve never been vaccinated, you’ll want to get the vaccine after you deliver. This rings true even if you choose to breastfeed. You don’t want to be vaccinated against rubella while you’re pregnant, though.
Common tests during later pregnancy
There are also a number of tests, which may be performed later on in pregnancy. They include:
- Rh antibody – If you end up Rh negative, your blood is tested between weeks 28-29 of pregnancy for Rh antibodies. If it turns out you don’t have Rh antibodies, you will then receive Rh immunoglobulin. This type of shot will prevent you from then making antibodies later on in your pregnancy. You may need to have special care if you have Rh antibodies.
- Group B streptococci, or GBS – This type of bacteria is found in your rectum and vagina. While many women who carry GBS don’t have symptoms themselves, they may still pass it on to their child during birth. Many babies who get GBS from their moms don’t have any problems, but some will get sick. This type of illness may lead to death in a newborn, or other serious health problems. Usually, GBS is found during a routine test between weeks 35-37 of your pregnancy. A swab is used to take a sample from your rectum and vagina. If the test is positive, you’ll be given antibiotics during your labor to help keep your baby safe from infection.
- Repeat CBC for anemia
- Glucose screening – This test determines the amount of glucose, or sugar, that’s in your blood. If you have high glucose, it could signal gestational diabetes. This type of test is common between weeks 24-28 of your pregnancy. If you have any diabetes risk factors, or if you had gestational diabetes during a previous pregnancy, screening could be done during your first trimester.
Birth defect screening tests vs. diagnostic tests
When it comes to testing for birth defects, a screening test is done to help find out the risk your baby has of common birth defects. This type of test, though, can’t tell you whether you baby has a birth defect. A screening test poses no risk to your unborn child.
On the other hand, a diagnostic test can detect many birth defects, which are caused by defects in either chromosomes or a gene. Your doctor may want you to do a diagnostic test if you have a history in your family of a birth defect, if you are a member of a certain ethnic group, of if you have another child already who has a birth defect. All pregnant women have the choice of doing a diagnostic test first, though, even if you don’t have any risk factors. It should be noted, some of these tests do carry a risk, including a small one for loss of pregnancy.
The first step in screening is determining our risk factors. Early on, your doctor may ask you some questions, including about your family history, ethnic background, if you’re age 35 or older, or if you have preexisting diabetes. You may want to also talk to a genetic counselor for more information.
- Carrier test – In a carrier test, you and our partner will be tested to see if you carry the gene that causes a disorder, such as the case of cystic fibrosis. You can do a carrier test either before you get pregnant or during pregnancy. It’s usually recommended if you or your partner has a genetic disorder, if you have a family history of certain genetic disorders, if you already have a child with a genetic disorder, or if you’re in a certain ethnic group at a greater risk. Because it’s one of the most commonly inherited disorders, cystic fibrosis carrier screening is available to all women of childbearing age.
- Ultrasound – Other screening tests include using an ultrasound, along with blood tests, to measure levels of certain types of substances in a mother’s blood.
Diagnostic tests include:
- Chorionic villus sampling
- Targeted ultrasound
The choice of whether to be tested for birth defects is up to you. If you find out during pregnancy that a test is positive, it gives you time to learn more about the disorder, and line up the medical experts you need for the future. You should lean on your doctor, or contact a genetic counselor, to help you understand the options.
Infections during Pregnancy
Infections that cause problems
There are a number of different types of infections, which could lead to health problems for mom and her unborn child. These are the most serious:
- Cytomegalovirus, also called CMV – This is spread through body fluids, urine, saliva or even sex. It may lead to a sore throat, body aches or a fever. If you have any of these symptoms, let your doctor know right away. You may need a blood test to determine if you have CMV.
- Parvovirus, also called fifth disease – This is spread between people. It leads to a rash on the legs, arms, back, face and chest. It may also lead to body aches and joint pain. If you’ve spent some time close to someone with parvovirus, tell your doctor. You may need a blood test to rule out an infection.
- Listeria – This causes back pain, chills and fever. You get it from eating food that’s spoiled. Because it’s sometimes difficult to tell whether food is spoiled, though, doctors usually recommend pregnant women stay away from things like deli meats, soft cheeses and raw milk. Your doctor may provide you with a list of all foods they want you to avoid.
- Toxoplasmosis – You get this from either touching cat waste while changing out a litter box, or eating uncooked meat. It doesn’t usually lead to symptoms for adults.
Vaccines during pregnancy
Vaccines can help prevent deadly or serious infections. Some are safe during pregnancy. These include:
- Influenza shot (flu shot) – The flu may cause chills, a cough, muscle aches, a sore throat or a fever. Every adult needs a flu shot every year.
- Tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis – With tetanus, your muscles begin working abnormally. With diphtheria, it leads to a thick covering over the back of your throat, which may impact breathing. Pertussis, also called whooping cough, leads to a severe cough. Every pregnant woman needs this vaccine between weeks 27-36 of their pregnancy, no matter if they’ve had it before, or not. Babies can get very sick if they come down with pertussis.
How to avoid an infection
You can try to lower the chances of getting an infection by doing these things:
- Don’t share foods, drinks or silverware with anyone
- Wash your hands frequently, especially after you prepare food, use the bathroom, garden, touch garbage or animals, or change a diaper
- Use bug spray to avoid mosquito bites, wear long-sleeved shirts and pants, and stay inside during dusk
- Use bug spray to avoid mosquito bites, wear long-sleeved shirts and pants, and stay inside during dusk
- Follow food safety tips
- Don’t travel to certain countries where you could be at risk of serious infections
- If there’s any chance your partner has an infection, use a condom during sex
- Don’t change a liter box. If you need to do it, wash your hands afterwards and use gloves.
- Don’t touch mice or rats
- Have all family members fully vaccinated
There’s a right and a wrong way to wash your hands. The best way is to:
- Place your hands under running water and use some soap
- Rub your hands for 15-30 seconds. Clean in between your fingers, your fingernails and your wrists
- Rinse your hands off
- Dry off with a paper towel, which you can then just throw away
If there’s not a sink around, use hand gel. The best ones out there include alcohol.
Zika Virus & Pregnancy
I am not pregnant, should I be worried about Zika?
and “no” are
the correct answer, let me explain. Eighty percent of people with the virus
never have symptoms. If you do have symptoms they are similar to a mild
The most common symptoms include fever and rash. Also associated with the viral illness are muscle and joint aches and pains, headaches, eye pain and itchy red eyes. These symptoms can last between two and seven days.
Unfortunately, it is the complications related to Zika that causes concern in a non-pregnant woman. One such significant complication is a serious illness called Guillain-Barre syndrome.
Guillain-Barre syndrome is an autoimmune disease that is triggered by viral infections, such as the Zika Viral infection. This autoimmune disease destroys the lining of nerve cells, giving rise to muscle weakness and paralysis. The weakness results in 66% of afflicted individuals not being able to walk and 25% having difficulty breathing.
So the answer is both, “yes” and “no”. No, you should not worry, because in the majority of the non-pregnant population it is not harmful. But, yes it is troubling in the non-pregnant population do to its association with Guillain-Barre syndrome.
I am Pregnant, should I be worried about Zika?
“Yes”, you should be worried. Even though symptoms
are minimal, the pregnancy related complications for your newborn baby are
alarming. The current newborn associated physical complications include,
microcephaly, brain malformations, severe eye problems, and impaired hearing.
Your non-newborn baby worries include a mild flu like syndrome and a serious
autoimmune disease the Guillain-Barre syndrome.
The CDC has noted a link between Zika virus and microcephaly has become evident. Microcephaly is a birth defect characterized by an abnormal small head and a congenital condition associated with incomplete brain development.
Since the recent Zika outbreaks, 4,000 babies have been born with microcephaly. Officials report, in these areas, one out of 100 newborn babies are born with microcephaly.
Zika experts are concerned that microcephaly may be just the tip of the iceberg. They believe that many more congenital anomalies are going to be found.
In the February 09, 2016 issue of the journal JAMA Ophthalmology provides strong evidence that the mosquito-borne virus can cause vision problems. The ophthalmic journal concluded, “A congenital infection due to Zika virus exposure is associated with vision-threatening findings that include retina and optic nerve damage”.
Another new complication has been established between the Zika virus and microcephaly. Experts believe newborn babies born with microcephaly also have impaired hearing. Yale University epidemiologist expert Albert Ko has identified the potential relationship.
Pregnant or not the CDC officials have said there is a link between Zika virus and Guillain-Barre syndrome. Guilain-Barre syndrome leads to nerve damage causing weakness and even paralysis. This rare condition has been identified in several South American countries since the Zika Outbreak.
If you are pregnant and been exposed to the ZIka virus you should be concerned. Tell your healthcare provider that you may have Zika. Your physician can do a blood test for the detection of the disease. They can also do an ultrasound and/or amniocentesis testing to see if your baby has it, too.
What are the chances I’ll get the Zika Virus?
It is important to
realize that mosquitoes spread the overwhelming majority of reported Zika
infections. The mosquito responsible for spreading Zika is an aggressive
mosquito, called Aedes aegyti. It will bite multiple persons to acquire one
blood meal, thus resulting in an overwhelming rapid spread of the virus.
The “Aedes aegyti” mosquito is now predominantly found in Central and South America. If you live in an area that does not have the infected mosquitoes you’re very unlikely to acquire the disease.
The first case of Zika being transmitted sexually was on Februrary 2, 2016. If your partner has returned from an outbreak area you should abstain from sexual intercourse or use a condom for the duration of your pregnancy.
It is now known that the virus can be found in blood, breast milk, saliva and urine. But, no cases have been confirmed of the virus being transmitted through these bodily fluids other than blood.
Dr. Tom Frieden, the director of the CDC, has said, “There have been a few known cases of viral spread by blood transfusions and now sexual contact. The virus can be found in blood up to a week after exposure. How long the virus remains in semen is not known at this time.”
Since the vast majority of Zika cases are going to be spread from mosquitoes, you should not have to worry. But, you will have to be up-to-date on the geographic spread of the virus and avoid individuals returning form outbreak areas.
What are the symptoms of Zika?
Most people, pregnant
or not, have no symptoms with a ZIka infection. In fact, one in five people
infected actually have symptoms. The most common infections include a fever,
rash, headache, joint and muscle pain, and red itchy eyes. If you do have
symptoms they are mild flu-like symptoms that resolve in two to seven days.
But, in general aside from these mild symptoms there are no lasting or long-term residual effects from the Zika infection. The initial infection will protect you from future infections, related by the CDC.
I have been exposed to Zika what should I do?
If you have been
exposed to the Zika virus, what you should do depends on if you are pregnant,
thinking about getting pregnant or a man who is planning sex with a pregnant
If none of the above situations apply to you then you have no need to be tested. Remember that only 20% of the people infected will actually develop symptoms. If you do have symptoms they are mild and short lived.
If any of the above situations apply to you, you should have your healthcare provider test for the Zika virus. A blood test is the only way to definitely confirm the viral infection.
How can I be treated if I have the Zika virus?
Unfortunately there is
no treatment for a Zika infection. We currently do not have any specific
medicines to treat Zika. Researchers are working on a vaccine, but it is years
from being available. If you are having bothersome symptoms the CDC recommends
the following treatment options.
Get rest and stay hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids. You can take acetaminophen (Tylenol) for your fever, aches and headaches.
Do not take aspirin or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications to treat the symptoms. These medications can cause bleeding if you have an infection that mimics Zika symptoms, called dengue fever. Also, never give aspirin containing medications to children less than 18 years, it can cause a serous complication called Reye syndrome.
How can I keep myself safe?
Since there is not a vaccine
to protect you from the Zika virus you will have to avoid exposure. Do not
travel to areas with an active outbreak. If you do find yourself in an area
with Zika virus mosquitoes the CDC advises you to use EPA-approved mosquito
repellent over sunscreen, protective clothing that can block a mosquito bite
and sleep in a screened area.
If you have been infected with the Zika virus you can help others by avoiding mosquito bites during the first week of your illness. The Zika mosquito bites during the daytime, not like other mosquitoes that bite at dusk. The mosquito likes to bite when indoors opposed to outdoors. So, make sure to keep your windows and doors covered with mosquito netting screens.
Cytomegalovirus (CMV) and Pregnancy
You May Never Know you’ve Been Exposed
If you’re around young children, you may want to be aware of cytomegalovirus (CMV) and your risk for it.
Cytomegalovirus (CMV) is a very common virus that is passed from person-to-person and can infect people of all ages. CMV is a member of the herpes virus family, and once it gets into your body, it stays there for life. But in a person with a healthy immune system, the virus stays dormant or silent, producing few or no symptoms at all. Like with toxoplasmosis, if you do develop symptoms, they tend to be mild and flu-like. These symptoms may include severe tiredness, headache, high fever, chills, and an enlarged spleen.
Between 50 to 80 percent of American adults will be infected by CMV by the time they are 40 years old. Children are normally infected in early childhood, especially if they attend childcare or preschool. Because most people have no symptoms, you may never know that you’ve been exposed to CMV unless you are tested for the virus.
How Does CMV Spread?
CMV can cause serious problems for people with weakened immune
systems and for the unborn babies of infected women. Because it can be passed
from the infected mother to her baby during pregnancy, birth, and
breastfeeding, it is a virus to pay special attention to. CMV is the most
common virus transmitted from mother to child during pregnancy.
Like other common viruses, CMV can be spread through close contact with an infected person. Healthcare and lab workers, moms of young children in childcare, and childcare workers are at high risk of getting CMV. In the infected person, the virus can be passed through bodily fluids, including blood, saliva, semen, cervical secretions, breast milk, and urine.
Pregnant women commonly contract a CMV infection through sexual contact with an infected person. They can also get the virus through contact with the saliva or urine of young children who have been infected.
One to four percent of pregnant women will experience their first CMV infection during pregnancy. About one-third of these women will pass it on to their child. Minorities and people with lower household incomes have higher rates of infection.
Can My Baby Catch CMV?
If you have already been infected with the virus before
pregnancy, you have less than a one percent chance of infecting your child.
Most babies born with CMV will never develop any symptoms or disabilities. Some babies may have temporary symptoms that go away in time. These may include jaundice (yellow skin), liver problems, purple skin splotches, low birth weight, and spleen problems.
In other cases, the damage from the virus can be permanent and leave these children with serious disabilities, such as hearing or vision loss, mental disability, small head size, lack of coordination, seizures, and even death.
In the United States, 1 in 150 babies are born with a CMV infection, but only 1 in 750 children will develop serious disabilities from it. Every year, close to 8,000 children suffer from permanent disabilities as a result of CMV.
An estimated 10 percent of CMV-infected infants will have symptoms at birth, but the other 90 percent show no symptoms.
Out of these 90 percent, between 10 to 15 percent will develop symptoms months and sometimes years after birth. If you are worried that your baby was born with CMV, your doctor can test his or her urine, saliva, and blood for the virus. This must be done within the first three weeks after birth. Luckily, babies that become infected with CMV after birth are not at risk for any disabilities.
How to Prevent CMV Infection
Because there are no safe and effective drugs to treat CMV in pregnant women, prevention is key:
• Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 15 to 20 seconds.
• Avoid contact with people who are sick.
• Do not kiss young child under the age of 5 on the mouth or cheek. Kiss them on the head instead.
• Do not share food, drink, and utensils with young children.
• If you work in a childcare center, you can reduce your risk of catching CMV by working with children who are older than two.
• Avoid sexual contact with multiple partners.
Do Not Clean the Litter box in Pregnancy
Toxoplasmosis in the First Trimester is Disastrous
Toxoplasmosis is a common parasitic infection that affects over
60 million people in the U.S. every year. Most people who carry the disease
have very few symptoms because their immune system keeps the parasite dormant
and prevents it from causing illness. When symptoms are present, they tend to
be mild and flu-like, such as swollen glands, fatigue, muscle aches, fatigue,
If you’re exposed to toxoplasmosis for the first time during pregnancy, it can have disastrous effects on your baby’s health.
You can get toxoplasmosis from handling cat litter that is
infected with the parasite. (Indoor cats rarely carry the disease. Outside cats
can get toxoplasmosis from contaminated soil or by eating infected meats – from
birds or mice.)
You can also become infected by eating uncooked meat from animals that were infected or by consuming food that came into contact with contaminated meat.
Active infection only occurs once in your life.
Once you are infected, the parasite lies dormant (inactive) in
your neural and muscle tissue for the rest of your life. However, you will have
built an immunity against it, so it will not cause any side effects or harm
unless you have a compromised immune system (such as AIDS).
If toxoplasmosis is transmitted to your baby, he or she is said to have congenital toxoplasmosis. This parasitic infection can damage your child’s eyes, nervous system, and ears. Your baby may also face blindness, severe mental retardation, and neurological problems later in life. Babies who are exposed to toxoplasmosis in the first trimester face the most severe consequences.
A majority of infected babies do not have any symptoms present at birth, but they will develop them later in life. If signs are present at birth, they may include fever, swollen lymph nodes, jaundice, an usually large or small head, anemia, and an enlarged liver or spleen. Infected babies are treated immediately after birth to prevent long-term problems.
Luckily, women who developed immunity to the parasite before they became pregnant will not pass it to their baby.
Doctors recommend that women with new toxoplasmosis infections wait at least six month before getting pregnant.
If you are pregnant and get toxoplasmosis, don’t fret. Certain medications and antibiotics are used to treat the infection. Prevention, however, is key to protecting your unborn child’s safety.
To prevent toxoplasmosis:
• Be sure to cook meat thoroughly. Use a food thermometer as an extra precaution. Your meat should not be pink; the juices should be clear.
• Wash all cutting boards, utensils, dishes, sink, and counters that have been in contact with raw or undercooked meat with hot, soapy water.
• Always thoroughly wash all fruits and vegetables.
• Avoid drinking unfiltered water.
• If you are pregnant, avoid traveling to underdeveloped countries, especially South America, where stronger strains of the parasite exist.
• Avoid changing your cat’s litter box. If you cannot avoid this chore, always wear gloves and wash your hands thoroughly afterwards.
• Wash your hands with soap and water after cooking or gardening.
• When you garden, always wear waterproof gloves.