Chlamydia And Pregnancy
The Most Common STD
Chlamydia is the most common of sexually transmitted diseases. Easily transmitted and often without symptoms, Chlamydia frequently goes unnoticed until severe damage has been done to a woman’s reproductive organs. If left untreated, a woman can become more susceptible to HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. Chlamydia can be transmitted through oral, vaginal, or anal sex and it can be transmitted from a woman to her baby during delivery. If a woman does have Chlamydia during her pregnancy, there is increased risk of a uterine infection after the birth.
How The Baby Is Infected
If a woman has Chlamydia when she goes into labour, there is a very good chance the infection will be passed to the baby. Nearly half of babies born vaginally to mothers who have untreated Chlamydia will be born with the disease. Even babies born by caesarean section can contracted the disease. The bacterium goes up the vagina and through the cervix into the uterus where the baby is growing.
Up to 50 percent of babies exposed to Chlamydia develop conjunctivitis within days of birth. This condition happens when the baby is exposed to the infection and the membrane covering the whites of the eyes and inside of the eyelids (the conjunctiva) becomes inflamed. The baby’s eyes and the lower rim of either of the eyelids are red. They may tear and become crusty in the process. Special antibiotic drops are used to arrest the infection and when treated promptly, the results are often very good.
Between 5 and 20 percent of newborns who contract Chlamydia during delivery, develop pneumonia within the first few months after birth. This illness can be treated very effectively with antibiotics as well. However, the infection can be very serious and even life threatening. For the safety of the baby, it is always best that the mother be treated before delivery to prevent the baby from becoming infected in the first place.
Screening Before, During And After Pregnancy Is Important
Since Chlamydia is the most common of STDs, women are usually screened for the disease at the first prenatal visit. A swab from the vagina or cervix is taken, or a urine specimen is sent to the lab for analysis. If the test comes back positive and testing for other STDs was not done, the doctor will likely test again. If the pregnancy is high risk in terms of re-infection, then the doctor may retest during the third trimester to be sure the infection is under control and has not passed on to the baby.
In order to treat Chlamydia during pregnancy, antibiotics that are safe to take are prescribed. It is important that the medication be taken exactly as prescribed for the duration of time prescribed. Often, one course of medication is sufficient. Equally important is that the woman’s partner be treated to avoid re-infection.
If there is concern that a woman has been exposed to Chlamydia or any other sexually transmitted infection during pregnancy, it is important that the health care provider be advised immediately.