Sexually Transmitted Diseases During Pregnancy

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Note: The Pregistry website includes expert reports on more than 2000 medications, 300 diseases, and 150 common exposures during pregnancy and lactation. For the topic Syphilis, go here. For the topic Genital Herpes, go here. For the topic HIV, go here. For the topic Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), go here. For the topic Chlamydial Infection, go here. These expert reports are free of charge and can be saved and shared.

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Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are infections that do not discriminate. Women who are pregnant can become infected with the same STDs as women who are not pregnant. And, an often overlooked issue is that, when you are pregnant, having an STD can be harmful to your baby.

Many STDs are ‘silent,’ or have no symptoms, so you may not know that you are infected.

If you are pregnant, you should be tested for STDs, including HIV (the virus that causes AIDS), as a part of your medical care during pregnancy.

The results of an STD can be more serious, even life-threatening, for you and your baby if you become infected while pregnant. It is important that you are aware of the harmful effects of STDs and how to protect yourself and your unborn baby against infection.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirm that STDs can complicate your pregnancy and may have serious effects on both you and your developing baby. Some of these problems may be seen at birth; others may not be discovered until months or years later.

In addition, it is well known that infection with an STD can make it easier for a person to get infected with HIV. Most of these problems can be prevented if you receive regular medical care during pregnancy. This includes tests for STDs starting early in pregnancy and repeated close to delivery, as needed.

STDs during pregnancy can cause complications:

  1. HIV. Pregnant women can pass HIV to their babies during pregnancy, labor, and vaginal delivery, or breast-feeding. However, if HIV is diagnosed before or early in pregnancy, steps can be taken to reduce the risk of transmission.
  2. Hepatitis B. The greatest risk of transmission occurs when pregnant women become infected close to delivery. Transmission can be prevented if at-risk infants are treated shortly after birth.
  3. Chlamydia. Chlamydia during pregnancy has been linked to preterm labor, premature rupture of the membranes and low birth weight. Chlamydia can be passed from women to their babies during vaginal delivery. If diagnosed during pregnancy, chlamydia can be successfully treated with an antibiotic.
  4. Syphilis. Syphilis during pregnancy has been linked to premature birth, stillbirth and, in some cases, death after birth. Untreated infants have a high risk of complications involving multiple organs.
  5. Gonorrhea. Untreated gonorrhea during pregnancy has been linked to premature birth, premature rupture of the membranes and low birth weight. Gonorrhea can be passed to the baby during vaginal delivery.
  6. Hepatitis C. Some research suggests that hepatitis C during pregnancy increases the risk of premature birth, small size for gestational age and low birth weight. This type of liver infection can be passed to the baby during pregnancy.

STDs such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis can be treated and cured with antibiotics during pregnancy. STDs caused by viruses, such as hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and HIV, can’t be cured. In some cases, antiviral medications can be used to help reduce the risk of transmitting a viral infection to your baby. If you have HIV, you might need to deliver by C-section.

Ultimately, the most important thing to remember is to get tested for STDs before and after getting pregnant. Your gynecological health is directly correlated to your baby’s health and the ability for you to have a smooth labor.

Shoshi W.
Shoshi is an undergraduate student at Stern College for Women in New York City. Her areas of interest include policy, non-profit organizations, and administration. During winter 2018, she was a White House intern. Shoshi has also interned at the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles and at Save the Children in New York. As a millennial, Shoshi brings a young and fresh perspective to the worlds of pregnancy and lactation.

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