Mother Spreads Bacteria, Viruses to Her Baby

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Bacteria and virus can be disseminated by mother to the baby when giving birth to the baby and in the first week of his/her life. Although many of it does not threaten baby’s health, there are some that could cause serious problems including involving death.

When in the womb, baby grows in ‘sterilized’ environment, but as the amniotic membrane crack, microbe starts to enter the environment. It then exposes the baby to bacteria and viruses for the first time.

As the baby comes out from womb and enters the birth canal, baby now been encased by organisms that stay in the mother’s vagina or skin. This includes bacteria that cause venereal disease.

Body fluids including blood that protect the baby expose them to infection like HIV or hepatitis B and C.

Baby bowel route then will be ‘colonized’ as he is birth. In a few days, bacteria as E-coli, enterococcus and bifidobacterium emerge in his excrement. This state is important because it helps in stimulating the development of the baby’s immune systems.

These bacteria come from mother or in other environments like maternity ward. Hence baby being born through surgery not through birth canal is late getting exposed to such bacteria.

Skin contacts between mother and baby, when suckling or during mother holding the baby also caused many bacteria being transferred to the baby. Around 30 percents of new born infants exposed to staphylococcus bacteria during his first week when born, but bacteria on the skin are not threatening to his health.

However, sometimes baby get exposed to dangerous bacteria such as MRSA ( methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus ) or group B streptococcus (GBS).

One of four women brings these bacteria in her vagina although no symptom rises. Sometimes she herself did not know the existence of the bacteria. Baby exposed to these bacteria during birth or parturition. In United Kingdom, GBS is most common life-threatening infections among newborn babies.

Factor that causes GBS transfer:

  • Premature birth (before the 37th week).
  • Amniotic fluid leaked 18 or 24 hours before parturition.
  • Fever to 38 degree Celsius.
  • GBS detected in mother urine during gestation period.
  • The previous baby born faced GBS infection.

Although most infant exposed to GBS did not have any problem, each year around 700 babies seize pneumonia and meningitis caused by the infection. One of ten babies is reported to die.

GBS is hard to prevent but if a woman is known having high risk to transfer infection to her baby, she are duly given antibiotic as the parturition process begins. Usually it is enough to prevent infection from mother to her baby.

Herpes simplex virus

This virus could cause venereal disease. If infecting the baby, it can bring to complication as cerebral palsy and blindness. The most exposing route the infant to this virus is the birth canal but infections can also happen within the uterus or after baby being born.


HIV can be transferred from mother to the baby during gestation period, travail or when suckling the baby. If antiviral drug is not given, baby whose been born by positive HIV woman is risky to be infected up to 30 percent. Baby may be infected during gestation or parturition.

Infection from mother to child could be prevented with the use of particular drugs, baby birth by surgery and giving infant formula milk.

Hepatitis B

Women who carry hepatitis B virus are risky to infect their babies with the virus when giving birth to them. Beside that, it also communicable through contacts with blood or other body fluids.

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