Pregnant Women's Guide to Diseases in the News

How to avoid dangerous diseases during pregnancy.

It's scary enough for anyone to hear about health dangers on the evening news. But when you're pregnant and concerned for two -- yourself and your baby -- it can be even more frightening. In some cases you are at greater risk for contracting certain illnesses while you're expecting because your body's immunity is lowered so you won't reject the baby growing inside you. Here's what you need to know about how some recent health scares may affect you.

Smallpox

Latest news: Smallpox was wiped out worldwide 30 years ago, but experts fear the contagious and often fatal disease could return thorough a biological terrorist attack. While the smallpox vaccine is not readily available, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention there is enough of the vaccine to inoculate every person in the U.S. in the event of an emergency.

Potential dangers: The smallpox vaccine itself is dangerous. It often causes fever and sore, swollen arms, but in a few cases it has life-threatening consequences such as serious skin rashes and inflammation of the brain. It can even cause death.

How it affects you: If you're pregnant, your baby is at a greater risk of serious complications from the smallpox vaccine -- things such as premature delivery, skin rashes with scarring, and even death -- and you shouldn't receive it. If you have had the vaccine, use reliable birth control and wait at least 4 weeks before trying to conceive. Additionally, avoid close contact with anyone who has had the vaccine in the last 28 days (for example, do not have sex or even share a bed with anyone who has been recently vaccinated). Also if you're breastfeeding, you should avoid getting it; it is unknown if the vaccine virus or antibodies can be passed on to the baby. The vaccine would only be advisable for pregnant or nursing women as a method of treatment if they were exposed to the smallpox virus.

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