A number of infectious diseases can be transmitted to pregnant women and passed on to their babies, increasing the risk of miscarriage, birth defects, and developmental problems. These infections, collectively referred to as TORCH infections, include toxoplasmosis, other (e.g., syphilis, HIV), rubella, cytomegalovirus (CMV), and herpes simplex virus.
It is important to educate women about these diseases and their risks, optimally prior to pregnancy. Vaccination is available for some of the diseases, and taking precautions to avoid exposure, such as frequent hand washing, can also aid in disease prevention. The best way for a woman to protect her unborn child from congenital diseases is to protect herself.1
- Worldwide, congenital HIV infection is a major cause of infant and childhood morbidity and mortality, responsible for an estimated 4 million deaths since the start of the HIV pandemic.2
- CMV is the most common virus known to be transmitted during pregnancy, affecting approximately 0.5–1.5% of births.3 Approximately 40% of maternal CMV infections during pregnancy result in congenital infection.4
- In pregnant women with untreated early syphilis, 25% of pregnancies result in stillbirth and 14% in neonatal death, an overall perinatal mortality rate of about 40%.5