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Studies have shown that a Staphylococcus aureus infection does not increase the baby’s risk for birth defects. A Staphylococcus aureus infection also does not increase the risk of miscarriages.

What Is A Staph Infection?

A Staph infection is an infection with a bacterium called Staphylococcus aureus, or Staph for short. Staph is a bacterium that is very abundant on surfaces everywhere. It also commonly lives on the skin, and in the nasal passages and ears of many healthy people. [1]

When skin is broken due to a wound of any kind, the wound can become contaminated with the bacterium. The bacterium will rapidly multiply in the favorable environment of the wound, and will cause an infection — the body will react with an inflammation of the wound. The signs of inflammation are [1]: 

  • Redness
  • Pain
  • Swelling 
  • Increased temperature of the area
  • Puss or other liquids draining from your wound

The bacteria can also enter the bloodstream through the wound. This condition is called sepsis, and fever is its first sign. Sepsis has a high mortality and should be treated by a specialist without delay. [2]

Staphylococcus aureus can also cause infections of surgical wounds and pneumonia. Food that has been contaminated with Staphylococcus aureus can cause food poisoning.

How Is A Staph Infection Treated?

Staph infection is treated with antibiotics. An infection that is limited to the skin can be treated with topical antibiotics, i.e. antibiotics that are applied directly to the affected area in the form of ointments or creams. The most commonly used antibiotics to treat Staphylococcus aureus infections are Methicillin, Penicillin, Oxacillin, and Amoxicillin. Systemic infections like sepsis are treated with intravenous antibiotics. [1]

What Is MRSA?

MRSA stands for Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus and it is a variant of Staphylococcus aureus that is resistant to the antibiotic Methicillin. It is usually also resistant to the other first-line antibiotics. In the past, MRSA has been a concern in hospitals, as bacteria living in hospitals come into contact with antibiotics more frequently, and therefore commonly develop resistances. However, recently, MRSA has become more and more common outside the hospital. Due to the problems faced when trying to treat MRSA with antibiotics, it is increasingly becoming a public health concern. [3]

How Is MRSA Treated?

Different strains of MRSA might be resistant to various kinds of antibiotics. For that reason, treatment might be especially difficult. Antibiotics that might work for MRSA are Clindamycin, Linezolid, Tetracycline, Doxycycline, Trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole, Vancomycin, and Ciprofloxacin. However, not all of these antibiotics will work for all MRSA strains. [3]

What Are The Specific Risks Of Staph Infections During Pregnancy?

Studies have shown that a Staphylococcus aureus infection does not increase the baby’s risk of birth defects. However, certain drugs that treat the infection can harm an unborn child. For this reason, it is essential that a pregnant woman notifies her doctor that she is pregnant since this influences a course of treatment.

A Staphylococcus aureus infection also does not increase the risk for miscarriages, although Staph infection is connected to bacterial vaginosis, which is a known factor for miscarriage. [5, 6]   

However, having an open infected wound makes it easier to catch other infections that might not be harmless to the baby, so it is essential to have the Staphylococcus aureus infection treated immediately.

Additionally, if an expecting mother has a Staphylococcus aureus, there is small chance that the infection can spread through the body and also infect the unborn child. It is also possible that the baby becomes infected during childbirth. However, chances of infection are relatively low. 

How Are Staph Infections Treated During Pregnancy?

There are many antibiotics, especially those of the penicillin family (like, Methicillin, which is category B drug — without proven risk in humans) that are safe to use during pregnancy.

For infections with MRSA, in which these antibiotics are ineffective, or for people who have a penicillin-allergy, there are other safe treatment options during pregnancy. However, some antibiotics can cause damage to the child (e.g. tetracycline can damage hearing). Therefore, the treating physician needs to know about the pregnancy so that a safe choice can be made. [7

Are There Any Risks Associated With A Staph Infection When Breastfeeding?

It is possible that a Staph infection is spread from the mother to the child or from the child to the mother during breastfeeding if the child comes into contact with an infected open sore on the mother's skin. Since Staphylococcus aureus is often found in the nasal passages, it is also possible that the mother develops mastitis (an infection of the breasts) from a child that is colonized with the bacterium in her nose. The risk is exceptionally high if the mother has broken skin on her nipples, which is very common during the first few weeks of breastfeeding. Staphylococcus aureus infections can be spread from mother to child or child to mother through any contact with infected sores, or bedding and clothing that was in contact with the sore. Wounds should therefore always be covered with a suitable dressing and infections should be treated appropriately. [8]

Most breastfeeding children don’t have any adverse reactions if the mother is using antibiotics to treat a Staphylococcus aureus infection. However, some children can be allergic and can develop a rash or diarrhea. If this is the case, a doctor should be consulted to determine whether a different antibiotic should be used to treat the skin infection or the mother should stop breastfeeding her child while she's on antibiotics. A mother can pump her breast milk (and discard it), so the breasts continue to produce milk, so the mother can continue breastfeeding her child after she's finished with antibiotics and when her doctor gives her the green light.  

Are You More Susceptible To Staph Infections When Pregnant?

Pregnancy, with its hormonal changes, alters the way the immune system reacts to pathogens. While there are no studies that show that pregnant women are at particularly high risk for contracting a Staphylococcus aureus infection, pregnancy makes women more susceptible to diseases in general and also to the development of complications from an infection. It is therefore critical to use proper hygiene with frequent hand washing to prevent infections during pregnancy.

What Can You Do To Prevent Staph Infection During Pregnancy?

  • Good hygiene is the number one preventive measure for Staphylococcus aureus infections. Frequent hand washing with soap and water, especially after using public bathrooms, handling money, or having close contact with the public, is a good way to prevent the spread of many infectious diseases including Staph infections. 
  • Open wounds should be covered with bandages and bandages of other people should never be touched. 
  • If you have a household member who has a Staphylococcus aureus infection, don’t share towels, soap, razors, or other personal items. Use rubber gloves if you need to handle an infected person’s laundry or bedding. 
  • Hand-washing after each close contact with the infected person is even more important in this situation than usual