Many women think that TORCH syndrome is a single health disorder. However, according to health experts, TORCH syndrome is a group of different infectious diseases. They can cause serious problems and harm the health of a fetus.
Developing TORCH infection in pregnancy is dangerous for your unborn baby. It spreads rapidly through your blood to the baby. At this level, the immune system of your baby is not strong enough to fight the infection so he/she develops the infection as well.
Moreover, if the infection or disease remains in your baby’s blood, he or she might not develop vital organs properly. There are the risks of numerous health problems as well. For instance, jaundice or hearing problems. TORCH diseases in pregnancy increase the risk of stillbirth and miscarriage as well.
Among the diseases that are associated with TORCH syndrome are:
Caused by parasites, toxoplasmosis is a rare condition. It happens when parasite enters your body through the mouth. You can get this parasite from eating uncooked meat. The infection transfers into your unborn baby as well, which might result in brain damage, excess fluid in the brain, seizures, inflammation in certain parts of the eyes, and delays in the ability to use muscles.
Varicella-zoster virus is a cause of chickenpox and congenital varicella syndrome in babies.
It’s unlikely you would pass varicella on to your baby. Even if you have chickenpox while you’re pregnant, there’s still only a 2% chance you’ll pass it on.
However, if a baby is born with congenital varicella, it is at risk of having birth defects.
Vaccination is also necessary if you have never opted for it. Women who get chickenpox during pregnancy should consult their doctor immediately.
Parvovirus B19 contributes to the fifth disease which is a rare problem for pregnant women and for their babies. This is possible because many women are immune to parvovirus so their babies are safe from its adverse effects.
However, if the virus affects any baby, he or she might get anemia. In some cases, a miscarriage may occur. Take note that there are no vaccinations or medication available to prevent the disease. So, you should pay extra attention to hygiene and try to avoid sick people. Plus, pregnant women are advised to talk about the possible risks of parvovirus B19 with their doctor.
Rubella or German measles is caused by a virus and is a contagious disease. Pregnant women, who have rubella, develop a sore throat, rash, along with low-grade fever.
Moreover, if you are pregnant and get rubella (especially in your first trimester), you need to visit your doctor as your unborn baby might get it as well.
It is an infection in the herpes virus group and affects around 50% of adults by the time they are 30. Although there is no cure for it, it gets better on its own very quickly and it does not cause serious problems.
However, the case is different for pregnant women; if they develop the condition, CMV may pass on to their baby.
Cytomegalovirus is also one of the common viral infections that affect newborn babies.
If a baby is born with congenital CMV, it may get sick or encounter the following chronic issues:
- small birth size
- hearing loss
- vision loss
- mental disability
- muscle weakness
- Lung problems
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Herpes is one of the very common chronic infections.
There are two types of herpes, i.e. HSV-1, which causes blisters around your mouth. It can pass on to your genitals as well. HSV-2 is an STD that leads to genital herpes. It causes blisters and opens sores which are painful. This infection can also contribute to oral herpes.
Herpes simplex can affect your baby when he or she is in the uterus, which is rare. Moreover, babies often get the infection during delivery. The risk of infection increases in babies when mothers get the first outbreak of herpes while they are pregnant. at the start of pregnancy.
This is because pregnant women shed excess virus particles for a long time. However, the risks of herpes infection in your baby increase if you get herpes later in your pregnancy. So, you should consult with the doctor about this situation.
With suitable precautions, you can reduce the risk of infection to some extent.
TORCH screen is done to detect whether you have an infectious disease (covered by screening) or had one in the past. This test is also necessary to find out if you are immune to infectious diseases such as rubella.
Many health experts recommend TORCH tests before conception for the healthy development of a fetus and safe pregnancy. Furthermore, the results of a TORCH test are termed positive and negative.
A negative test result is considered normal unless it is for a disease that you should be vaccinated against. This indicates that there are no antibodies in your body. And, there is no recent or past infection in your body.
On the other hand, a positive test result indicates that IgG or IgM antibodies are found. These antibodies can be a sign of one or more infections that are covered in your TORCH test. These can also suggest that you have been vaccinated for a disease before.
Your doctor will further elaborate if your test results are positive and recommend the best treatment.
The treatment or management of TORCH diseases differs and is based on the symptoms.
- To treat toxoplasmosis, your doctor may suggest sulfadiazine and pyrimethamine.
- The treatment of cytomegalovirus is done according to the patient’s symptoms, such as fever or fatigue.
- In the case of Herpes Simplex virus, your doctor might suggest cesarean delivery if active lesions are found.
- Pregnant women who develop Rubella can treat it by resting and mild analgesics.
- If the mother has developed chicken pox in her life, then it is not a major concern. However, if a pregnant mother has never had chicken pox, its risk increases during pregnancy. You can protect your baby from congenital varicella syndrome by avoiding people who have chicken pox.
- Health experts do not recommend getting vaccinated against varicella infection while you are pregnant.
TORCH infection treatment is less stressful before pregnancy. However, you need to eliminate TORCH infection from your body to promote the healthy development of the fetus. Health experts recommend TORCH tests before you conceive. These tests help with disease or infection detection. In case of positive results, your doctor might suggest the treatment on the basis of your symptoms. Although negative results are not a significant concern, your doctor may suggest precautionary steps for a safe pregnancy.
TORCH infections can lead to critical health conditions and affect the health of your unborn baby. It is highly recommended to discuss TORCH syndrome with your doctor before your pregnancy to avoid unwanted outcomes.
Reviewed by Tahir Mahmood, Chair of Standards of Care European Board and College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology.