Smoking not only impacts negatively on fertility, it also considerably increases risk of miscarriage, premature birth, stillbirth, and sudden infant death syndrome during pregnancy.

Smoking constricts the blood vessels, limiting the supply of oxygen to the placenta and thereby to the foetus. Nicotine also affects the foetus directly, as it is passed into her or her system via the maternal blood supply.

The toxins created by nicotine also pass into the mother's milk, reducing its amount and quality. Both active and passive smoking should be avoided during pregnancy at all costs as each cigarette increases the negative effects on the unborn child.

Toxoplasmosis is usually contracted through eating raw or insufficiently cooked meat. The causative pathogen can also be found in cat faeces.

The infection usually goes unnoticed, resembling a light flu, with symptoms such as welling of the lymph nodes and fever. About 50% of all adults have been infected with toxoplasmosis and are thus immune to it, as the infection can only occur once.

Contracting toxoplasmosis during pregnancy, however, can be very harmful for the development of the foetus, causing blindness due to an infection of the retina, damage to the brain, liver or spleen and even triggering a miscarriage.

When you first fall pregnant your doctor will screen your blood to check for immunity to toxoplasmosis. If you do not have immunity your blood will need to be checked regularly throughout your pregnancy to make sure you have not been exposed to the infection.

If you do contract toxoplasmosis during pregnancy it can be treated with antibiotics. Pregnant women who don't have antibodies to toxoplasmosis should adhere to the following safety precautions:

  • Only eat meat which has been sufficiently cooked
  • Clean raw fruit, vegetables and lettuce thoroughly
  • Avoid contact with cat faeces

Listeriosis infection doesn't cause anything more harmful than a gastro-intestinal flu, but if contracted during pregnancy, it can lead to miscarriage or have serious effects on the unborn child.

Listeriosis bacteria are found in unpasteurised milk products and raw meat or fish. Although very rare in pregnant women, it is best to avoid the risk of listeriosis infection by consuming only pasteurised milk products, avoiding raw meat or fish and carefully rinsing salads, especially those containing wheat germ and sprouts, which can also contain the bacteria.