Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD)
& Pregnancy

 

A sexually transmitted disease (STD) is a bacterial or viral illness that you can get from having genital, oral, or anal sex with an infected partner. Sexually transmitted diseases can have serious health consequences for you and your baby.

 

 

Can pregnant women become infected with sexually transmitted diseases?

Women who are pregnant can become infected with sexually transmitted diseases (STD) as well as women who are not pregnant. Many STDs are silent and have no symptoms, so women may not know if they are infected or not. It is important that women are aware of the harmful effects of STDs have and how to protect themselves. Pregnant women should ask their provider about being tested for STDs. 

 

How does sexually transmitted diseases (STD) affect a pregnant women and her baby?

Sexually transmitted diseases can complicate your pregnancy and may have serious effects for both you and your developing baby. Some problems may be seen at birth; others may not be discovered until months or years later. Most of these problems can be prevented if you receive regular medical care during your pregnancy. 

 

Some infections can pass to your baby through the placenta or be transmitted during labor and delivery or when your water breaks. Newborn infections can be very serious (even life threatening), and some may lead to long-term irreversible health and developmental problems. STD’s can also raise your risk of miscarriage, preterm premature rupture of the membranes, preterm birth, uterine infections, and stillbirth. 


Can STD’s be treated during pregnancy?

Sexually transmitted diseases such as Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, Syphilis, and Trichomoniasis can be treated and cured with antibiotics that are safe to take during pregnancy. You can protect yourself against infection by using latex male condoms, when used consistently and correctly can reduce the risk of getting or giving an STD. 

 

 

Common STDs

 

Chlamydia

This is the most common sexually transmitted disease in the United States. The majority of chlamydia infections do not have symptoms, pregnant women may have abnormal vaginal discharge, bleeding after sex, or itching/burning with urination. Untreated chlamydia has been linked to problems during pregnancy, including preterm labor and low birth weights.

 

Gonorrhea

Untreated gonococcal infection in pregnancy has been linked to miscarriages, premature birth and low birth weight. This infection is commonly spread during sex and babies can be infected during childbirth if their mothers are infected. In babies, gonorrhea most commonly affects the eyes and can cause premature birth, miscarriages and low birth weight.

 

Herpes Simplex Virus

Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV) is a virus that has two types HSV-1, oral herpes and HSV-2, genital herpes.  The HSV-1 (oral herpes) can cause sores around the mouth and lips and can be spread through kissing or sharing objects such as toothbrushes or eating utensils. The HSV-2 (genital herpes) sores may occur around the genital or rectum and can be spread during sexual contact with someone who has a genital HSV-2 infection. The symptoms of genital herpes (HSV-2) are similar in pregnant and non-pregnant women; however, the major concern regarding herpes infection relates to complications linked to infection of the newborn. Herpes infection can be passed from mother to child during pregnancy or childbirth. In newborns the herpes infection can occur when the baby passes through the mother’s infected canal. This infection can have very serious effects on newborns. Cesarean section is suggested for all women in labor with active genital herpes lesions or early symptoms. Do not touch the sores or fluids to avoid spreading herpes to another part of your body. If you touch the sores or fluids, immediately wash your hands thoroughly to help avoid spreading the infection. It is important to know that both HSV-1 and HSV-2 can be spread even if sores are not present.

 

Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)

This virus causes acquired immune deficiency syndrome, or AIDS. HIV destroys specific blood cells that are crucial to helping the body fight diseases. The most common way that HIV passes from mother to child is during pregnancy, labor and delivery, or through breastfeeding. If a mother knows early in her pregnancy that she is HIV-positive has time to consult with her healthcare provider and decide on effective ways to protect her health and that of her unborn baby.

 

Syphilis

If you are pregnant and have syphilis, you can give the infection to your unborn baby. Having syphilis can lead to a low birth weight baby. It can also make it more likely you will deliver your baby too early or stillborn (a baby born dead). To protect your baby, you should be tested for syphilis during your pregnancy and at delivery and receive immediate treatment if you test positive.

 

An infected baby may be born without signs or symptoms of disease. However, if not treated immediately, the baby may develop serious problems within a few weeks. Untreated babies can have health problems such as cataracts, deafness, or seizures, and can die.

 

Trichomoniasis

This vaginal infection is due to the parasite trichomonas vaginalis which is a very common STD. The symptoms vary among women, some report no symptoms, others complain of itching, foul odor, discharge and bleeding after sex. 

 

It is VERY important to detect and treat STD’s during pregnancy. Your provider will screen for many of these during your prenatal visit. Be sure to let your provider know if you have had any STD’s in the past or if your or your mate have more than one sexual partner or have ever shared needles. 

 

Bacterial Vaginosis

Bacterial Vaginosis is NOT an STD but is linked to sexual activity.

 

This infection can cause discharge in women of childbearing age and is a condition in which the “good” and “bad” bacteria in the vagina are out of balance. This is not often considered an STD, but is linked to sexual activity. Some symptoms are a foul smelling, fishy, vaginal discharge. During pregnancy this infection has been linked to preterm labor, and premature birth. 

 

 

 

 

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Resources

Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

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Telling your Partner You Have an STD

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