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Navigating Encephalitis During Pregnancy

Encephalitis is an inflammation of the brain tissue caused by viruses, bacteria, or fungi

Encephalitis is a rare but serious disease that can become life-threatening. If not proper treatment is given, it can lead to significant neurological complications among women.

The disease during pregnancy can result from many things including herpes simplex virus and mosquito-borne viruses such as Zika virus. When encephalitis occurs during pregnancy, it can raise concerns about the health and well-being of both the mother and the fetus. The impact of encephalitis on pregnancy can vary depending on factors such as the severity of the infection, the gestational age of the fetus, and the presence of any underlying health conditions in the mother. It is most commonly caused by a viral or bacterial infection, and it can cause a baby to have seizures, permanent brain damage, or cerebral palsy. Encephalitis can be caused by maternal infections that travel to the baby at birth, such as Group B streptococci, urinary tract infections, bacterial vaginosis, E. coli, and an intra-amniotic infection called chorioamnionitis.

Symptoms of Encephalitis :

● In terms of symptoms, viral encephalitis is similar to the flu and it typically lasts two or three weeks.

● For pregnant women, the signs of encephalitis may include fever, headache, stiff neck, vomiting, sensitivity to light, drowsiness, hallucinations, and seizures.

● Pregnant women with this can face high risks due to physiological changes, that may lead to coma.

● In severe cases, some women may experience difficulty in speaking, understanding simple vocabulary, muscle weakness, partial or complete paralysis, confusion, memory loss, impaired judgment, muscle tremors, and the inability to regulate their body temperature.

● Newborns typically display signs such as vomiting, body stiffness, bulging fontanel, and unusual soft spots on the skull.

To diagnose during pregnancy can be difficult due to overlapping symptoms with common pregnancy-related symptoms such as gestation hypertension. Close fetal monitoring through ultrasound to assess for any signs of fetal distress or complications, blood tests, a spinal tap to identify viruses found in the fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord, a CT scan and MRI, electroencephalography, and neurological examination may be necessary to verify a diagnosis of the infection.

Individuals with mild infections can recover completely. People with severe diseases can improve, although they might have permanent damage to their nervous system or may experience vision loss, epilepsy, or paralysis.

Herpes encephalitis can be treated with antiviral drugs. They don't work well, though, in treating other types of encephalitis. Certain medications used to treat encephalitis may carry risks for fetal development. This can also increase the risk of complications during childbirth and affect fetal development, leading to miscarriage, and preterm birth.

Preventing encephalitis during pregnancy involves less exposure to pathogens through vaccination, and also should avoid the mosquito-borne area. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle can also help manage the condition's impact on overall well-being.

About the Author -

Consultant, Obstetrics and Gynaecologist, Rosewalk Healthcare, Delhi


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