STDs and Pregnancy

December 14, 2007

When you are considering getting pregnant or are already pregnant, it's very important to know about Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STD). Many women don't know how they can influence your pregnancy and the health of your baby.  Learning about these issues can help in your treatment plan and in your future prevention of STDs.

How Are STDs Transmitted During Pregnancy?

Pregnant women are at just as much risk of contracting an STD as are women who are not pregnant.  There are some STDs that are quite common in pregnant women in the United States and others that are less so.  Genital herpes and bacterial vaginosis are both very common.  Other STDs such as HIV and syphilis, are much less wide spread.  STDs are dangerous, both for the mother and the fetus during pregnancy.  Many STDs can cause cervical cancer and other cancers, hepatitis, pelvic disease and other issues.  There are some STDS that cross over the placenta and infect the baby while it's still in the womb. Syphilis is one such disease.  Other STDs are not transmitted while the baby is in the womb, but they can be transmitted while the baby is delivered, as the baby passes through the birthing canal.  Such diseases include gonorrhea, hepatitis B and genital herpes.  HIV can infect the baby in these, and other, ways.  It crosses over the placenta; it can infect the baby during delivery; and it can infect the baby through breastfeeding.

What Are The Consequences of STDs to the Mother?

A mother with an STD may have many problems and complications during the pregnancy and delivery due to an STD.  Her labor may begin earlier than is healthy for the baby.  She may have a premature rupture of the membranes surrounding the baby and she might have a uterine infection after delivery.  One of the difficulties with many STDs is that the woman may not show any signs.  When this is the case, and she doesn't know that she has an STD, she may unwittingly infect her baby or create complications in her pregnancy.  If she does realize that she has an STD, then many of these diseases can be controlled and eradicated with medicine.

What Are The Consequences to the Baby?

There are many potentially harmful consequences for the baby of a woman who is pregnant with an STD.  Such complications can include still births and low birth weight babies.  Other complications might include eye infections, pneumonia, neurological damage, blindness, deafness and other difficult conditions.  If the pregnant women has regular prenatal care, STD screening tests will usually be performed, and the doctor will discover the problem.  The CDC 2006 Guidelines for Treatment of Sexually Transmitted Diseases recommends that pregnant women receive screening for many of these diseases during their first prenatal visit.  Such a screening would include testing for Chlamydia, gonorrhea, hepatitis B, HIV and syphilis.  Many of these can be treated and the consequences to the baby can be prevented.  If the situation goes untreated until the time of delivery, some of these consequences can be treated at the time of birth.

Preventing STDs

Obviously, the best way to prevent STDs is to be celibate.  The next best way is to use condoms correctly and consistently.  They can greatly reduce the risk of contracting STDs and of going through the difficulties and processes explained here.  Keeping yourself as healthy as possible is always the best course of action, and the one that will help you on your path towards motherhood.

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