Don't Ignore STDs

Can A Pregnant Woman Contract An STD?

Women who are pregnant can become infected with STDs just the same as those who are not pregnant.  There is no protection against sexually transmitted diseases by being pregnant and both mother and baby are at great risk should they come into contact with a carrier of an STD.  The consequences can be very dramatic and more serious for both the woman and her unborn baby if she becomes infected while pregnant. It is important for her to be educated and aware of the harmful effects and how to protect herself and her baby against infection.

Some STDs are very common in pregnant women. Genital herpes and bacterial vaginosis lead the ranks in terms of cases in pregnant women while such STDs as syphilis and HIV seem to be less prevalent.  The net effect of a sexually transmitted disease on a woman and her baby are the same as they are on women who are not pregnant.  STDs can cause cervical and other kinds of cancers, chronic hepatitis, PID (pelvic inflammatory disease), and infertility.  Often there is no hint that an STD is present, so testing is important.

Danger To Both Mother and Baby

The danger to the unborn baby is very great.  Sexually transmitted diseases can be passed to the baby at any stage of pregnancy and birth and even after the birth, as in the case of HIV which can be transmitted through breastfeeding.  Some STDs can cross the placenta, like syphilis, and can infect the baby in the womb.  Others can be transmitted during the delivery process, such as gonorrhea, chlamydia, hepatitis B and genital herpes.  The harmful effects to the baby range from chronic liver disease, blindness, neurological damage and meningitis, all the way to stillbirth.  The pregnant woman can experience early onset of labor, premature rupture of the membranes surrounding the baby in the uterus and infections after delivery.

Testing Is Important

Since STDs affect women of every socioeconomic and educational level, age, race, ethnicity and religion, it's important that they be screened for STDs on their first prenatal visit.  The Center for Disease Control 2006 Guidelines for Treatment of Sexually Transmitted Diseases recommends that pregnant women are screened for such diseases as chlamydia, gonorrhea, hepatitis B, HIV and syphilis.  Additionally, there are recommendations from some experts that if a woman has had a premature delivery prior, she should be checked and treated for bacterial vaginosis at the same time as the testing for the other infections.

Some doctors do not do regular testing for STDs in pregnancy, so it behooves a woman to ask her doctor about being tested.  There are more and more new and better tests available, and with the better accuracy, so STDs can be caught in their early stages.  If a woman is at risk of contracting an STD during her pregnancy, regular screening at each prenatal visit would be an option.

There are other infections which can affect the outcome of a pregnancy that may not be sexually transmitted.  Checking with the doctor and becoming educated as well as having testing and screening done can save both mother and baby from possible extreme health issues.


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