While pregnancy is perhaps the happiest time of any woman’s life, there also lurks the possibility of contracting infections that can harm both mother and baby.
TORCH, like other infections, can affect you at any age, during pregnancy. Understanding what TORCH is and how you can keep both yourself and your baby safe from this infection can help you avoid or get this treated at the earliest.
What Is TORCH Infection During Pregnancy?
TORCH is an acronym for five infections caused by pathogens that are transmitted directly from the mother to the fetus or baby during pregnancy or childbirth. It occurs when the pregnant woman contracts the infection during pregnancy.
TORCH consists of the following five infections:
1. Toxoplasmosis or Toxoplasma gondii.
2. Other infections, such as Chlamydia, HIV, Coxsackievirus, Syphilis, Hepatitis B and Chicken pox.
5. Herpes simplex virus 2
All of the listed diseases may be teratogenic to the fetus, that is, cause developmental problems. These torch infections during pregnancy cross the placenta and their effects vary depending on the stage of development of the fetus at the time of exposure to its pathogen.
As a result of TORCH infection during pregnancy, you may suffer a miscarriage.
- Exposure between 11 to 20 weeks has 90 percent risk of congenital rubella syndrome.
- 25% of babies, whose mothers got rubella in the first trimester, show birth defects like cataracts, heart defects, poor eyesight, hearing loss, movement disorders, mental retardation and development of diabetes during early childhood.
- Short term effects like meningitis, pneumonia, and anaemia are also quite common among these neonates.
These are essentially two ways of transmission of TORCH infection:
1. Across Placenta:
The fetus depends on your immunity and has virtually none of its own. So it has no resistance against the pathogens that cross the placental boundary. These microorganisms may not be very dangerous for you, but may cause spontaneous abortion.
2. During Childbirth:
While passing through the birth canals or even shortly after birth, some of the torch infections in pregnancy may be transmitted to your baby through body fluids and maternal blood. However, this type of transmission can be controlled more effectively by medical intervention.
The different diseases that consist of TORCH infection have their own symptoms. Some of the general signs of the infection are:
- Subtle symptoms like flu, that may not be noticed during pregnancy, but can wreak havoc in the fetus.
- Petechial rash on the skin (small red or purple spots due to subcutaneous capillary bleeding).
- Fever and poor feeding
- Enlarged liver and spleen
Treatment Of Torch Infection In Pregnancy
The different components of TORCH infections have different treatments:
If you are immuno-compromised or pregnant, you can be treated with sulfadiazine and pyrimethamine in early stages of infection.
Mild analgesics and rest is recommended while different symptoms of neonates are treated individually.
If you have this infection, you will be treated for individual symptoms like fatigue, fever and hepatomegaly. Treatment for neonates with CMV is not very effective.
4. Herpes Simplex Virus:
You may be recommended to have a caesarean delivery if you have active lesions. Antiviral drugs are used to alleviate symptoms and shorten the infection period. Oral acyclovir and vidarabine are given to neonates.
5. Hepatitis B:
Pregnant women and neonates exposed to Hep B are vaccinated and given HBIG.
Certain precautionary measures must be taken to prevent contraction of TORCH infection:
- Proper hygiene should be maintained.
- Hands should be washed thoroughly after going outside.
- Stay away from strays and do not let pets wander; handling strays can cause toxoplasmosis.
- Meat should be cooked until no longer pink.
- Hands should be washed thoroughly after handling raw meat.
- Avoid sharing personal items that may have blood on them (razors or toothbrushes) or getting tattoos and piercings.
- If you have a history of genital herpes, avoid triggers like peanuts, chocolate, fever, friction or stress.
Torch infection can indeed be enough reason to suffer from sleepless nights. But armed with the know-how of the infection, its symptoms and how to tackle it, you can combat the infection sooner.
Do not panic or let the infection overpower and shadow the joy of pregnancy. Instead, eat healthy and go for regular checkups to ensure your, and in turn, your baby’s, good health.
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