Intermountain Healthcare

Education and Testing Key to Prenatal Infection Prevention


Saratoga Springs, UT -- (ReleaseWire) -- 02/21/2021 --Experts and moms agree -- in most cases, the mother's womb is the safest place for a fetus to be. The human body's ability to care for and protect the unborn child is a marvel that is as-yet unmatched by anything in modern medicine.

But even with all its safeguards, there are some infections that can breach that protective barrier and threaten the health of an unborn, or newborn baby.

Fortunately, with proper education and care, the vast majority of these problems can be minimized and treated effectively.

"All obstetricians in the community offer routine screening for prenatal infections as part of prenatal care," said Patrick Carroll, MD, medical director for Intermountain St. George Regional Hospital.

Some of the diseases for which women are routinely tested during pregnancy include hepatitis B, syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia, HIV and rubella. Although the majority of these diseases are not commonly found among mothers delivering at St. George Hospital, knowing whether or not these diseases are present allows the physician to take precautions and offer treatments, depending on each patient's needs.

A more commonly found infection is a bacterium known as Group B Strep that is present in the birth canal in about 30 percent of women.

"This is a bacteria that does not cause problems for the mother, but if it gets into the baby's lungs or blood stream during delivery, it can be very serious," Dr. Carroll said.

Expectant mothers are tested for the presence of Group B Strep around 34-36 weeks gestation. If the bacteria is detected, the mother is treated with antibiotics just before delivery which creates a much safer environment for baby to pass through.

"This has been shown to decrease the frequency of Group B infections in babies dramatically," Dr. Carroll said.

In light of the current pandemic, there is another infection on the minds of many pregnant women, leading many to ask how COVID-19 will affect the delivery and health of their babies.

"The good news about COVID, is that it shouldn't cross the placenta and it is extremely unusual for a baby to get infected with COVID," Dr. Carroll said. "In contrast to other diseases that babies can get like RSV and influenza, COVID is not something that babies are getting commonly, even when mother is infected at the time of delivery."

As per current hospital procedure, all moms that deliver in the hospital are tested for COVID prior to delivery in order to protect the caregivers at the hospital and family members of the mother.

"From the standpoint of the mother, having COVID during pregnancy is something we worry about," Dr. Carroll said. "The data has shown their risks for complications and admittance into the ICU is higher."

"Moms do a phenomenal job of being careful during pregnancy, and that's best practice," Dr. Carroll said.

With regard to COVID specifically, Carroll said it is important to exercise caution during pregnancy in order to minimize your exposure to COVID-19 to help increase the chance of having a safe delivery.

About St. George Regional Hospital
St. George Regional Hospital is part of Intermountain Healthcare, a not-for-profit system of 24 hospitals, 215 clinics, a Medical Group with 2,500 employed physicians and advanced practice clinicians, a health insurance company called SelectHealth, and other health services in Idaho, Utah, and Nevada. Intermountain is widely recognized as a leader in transforming healthcare by using evidence-based best practices to consistently deliver high-quality outcomes and sustainable costs.

Please note: In 2021, Intermountain Dixie Regional Medical Center will officially begin using our new name: Intermountain St. George Regional Hospital.