STDs and Pregnancy Complications

If you are a pregnant woman and also have a sexually transmitted disease (STD), you may feel very concerned about your health and the health of your baby.  It’s important to know the facts and to work with your healthcare provider to have the best possible outcome.

First, make sure you have the proper diagnosis.  According to the CDC, it’s important for women who are pregnant to be tested for STDs as soon as possible.  (https://www.cdc.gov/std/pregnancy/stdfact-pregnancy.htm) This will help your healthcare provider to have all the information.

It’s also important to realize that you can become infected with a sexually transmitted disease during pregnancy.  So if you’re having unprotected sex and feel you may be at risk you can test any time throughout your pregnancy.

Each type of STD can have a different effect on pregnancy and your baby.  For example, herpes doesn’t usually cause problems during pregnancy, but can be transmitted to the baby during delivery and can affect her eyes, skin, mouth, and nervous system.  To prevent this, women who are known to have herpes typically undergo a C-section delivery.

Chlamydia and gonorrhea can actually cause problems during pregnancy and even lead to increased risk of miscarriage or premature delivery.  Both can lead to eye infections in newborn babies.  The good news is that both can be treated with antibiotics during pregnancy to reduce the risk of these problems.

Syphilis is another infection that can lead to problems for babies.  In fact, it can cause miscarriage or stillbirth.  It can be transmitted to your baby in the birth canal or even before birth it can be transmitted through the placenta.  But like chlamydia and gonorrhea, syphilis can be treated during pregnancy to stop the infection from spreading to the baby and to stop it in the mother.

HIV is a virus that causes AIDS.  It can be transmitted to a developing fetus during pregnancy.  However, if the mother is treated with medication during pregnancy the risk is as low as 2 percent of transmitting it to the baby.  Once babies are born they continue treatment for a time to reduce the risk of the disease developing.

One of the most common STDs in the world is human papillomavirus (HPV).  This is the virus that causes genital warts and leads to cervical cancer in women.  It’s rare for a baby to be exposed to HPV during childbirth, but it is possible.

If the baby does become exposed, he can develop recurrent respiratory papillamatosis – a condition that causes tumors to grow in the throat.  Warts can also make vaginal delivery difficult or impossible.  A C-section delivery eliminates the risk of disease transmission.

Hepatitis B and C are also infections that can be transmitted to your baby during pregnancy.  They can both lead to liver disease in the baby.  For hepatitis B, babies with positive mothers will be vaccinated at birth to prevent problems.  In the case of hepatitis C, children will have to be monitored as there is no vaccine.

It’s important to be screened for STDs before and during pregnancy to get the best possible care and prevent complications.

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