sti in pregnancy

STI And Pregnancy – What You Need To Know

As if pregnancy isn’t challenging enough, having a sexually transmitted infection (STI) can further complicate things. STIs are infections contracted through sexual contact caused by bacteria, viruses, or parasites.

During pregnancy, your body goes through numerous changes to support the growth and development of the fetus. These changes can also affect your immune system, making you more susceptible to STIs. Additionally, some STIs can have severe consequences for both the pregnant person and their developing baby. Therefore, it is essential to be aware of the risks and take precautions to protect yourself and your unborn child.

Choices Women’s Clinic offers STI testing and treatment services to help you protect your health and your baby’s health. In this guide, we’ll discuss the most common STIs and their potential impact on pregnancy, as well as steps you can take to prevent and manage these infections. Learn more about free testing options.

STI In Pregnancy

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 1 in 10 pregnant people are infected with an STI. The most common types of STIs during pregnancy include chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, HIV, and hepatitis B. It is important to note that even if you have been previously tested and treated for an STI, you can still be infected during pregnancy.

Common STIs (Sexually Transmitted Infections) During Pregnancy

Pregnancy is a time of immense joy and anticipation for expecting parents. However, it’s also a period marked by heightened health concerns, particularly regarding the well-being of both the mother and the unborn child. Among the various health risks that pregnant women face, sexually transmitted infections (STIs) pose significant challenges. Here, we delve into the common STIs that can impact pregnant women and their babies.

1. Chlamydia

Chlamydia is one of the most prevalent STIs globally, caused by the bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis. During pregnancy, chlamydia can lead to severe complications such as premature birth, low birth weight, and even pneumonia in newborns. Additionally, untreated chlamydia increases the risk of miscarriage and can cause infections in the uterus after childbirth.

2. Gonorrhea

Gonorrhea, caused by the bacterium Neisseria gonorrhoeae, is another common STI that can affect pregnant women. If left untreated, gonorrhea can result in preterm labor and the transmission of the infection to the baby during childbirth, leading to eye infections that may cause blindness. Pregnant women with gonorrhea are also at a higher risk of developing complications such as pelvic inflammatory disease (PID).

3. Syphilis

Syphilis, caused by the bacterium Treponema pallidum, can have devastating consequences if contracted during pregnancy. Untreated syphilis can result in stillbirth, neonatal death, or severe neurological problems in the baby. The infection can be passed from mother to child through the placenta or during childbirth. Screening for syphilis during pregnancy is crucial to prevent these adverse outcomes.

4. Genital Herpes

Genital herpes is caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV) and is highly contagious. Pregnant women with genital herpes may experience genital sores, which can increase the risk of transmitting the virus to the baby during childbirth. Neonatal herpes, a rare but serious condition, can lead to brain damage, developmental delays, and even death in newborns. Antiviral medications may be prescribed to manage outbreaks and reduce the risk of transmission to the baby.

5. Human Papillomavirus (HPV)

Vaccine bottle with blank white label.Vaccination, immunization, treatment to provides active acquired immunity to a particular infectious disease. Healthcare And Medical concept. Vaccine bottle with blank white label.Vaccination, immunization, treatment to provides active acquired immunity to a particular infectious disease. Healthcare And Medical concept. 5. Human Papillomavirus (HPV) stock pictures, royalty-free photos & images

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a common STI that can cause genital warts and increase the risk of cervical cancer. While HPV infection during pregnancy typically does not pose significant risks to the baby, certain strains of the virus can be transmitted during childbirth, potentially leading to respiratory papillomatosis in infants. Pregnant women with HPV may undergo regular Pap smears to monitor for abnormal cell changes.

6. Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)

HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, can be transmitted from mother to child during pregnancy, childbirth, or breastfeeding. Without intervention, the risk of mother-to-child transmission of HIV is around 15-45%. However, with appropriate antiretroviral therapy during pregnancy, the risk can be significantly reduced to less than 1%. Early detection of HIV during pregnancy and adherence to antiretroviral treatment are essential for preventing transmission to the baby.

7. Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is a viral infection that can cause liver inflammation and lead to chronic liver disease. Pregnant women with hepatitis B can transmit the virus to their babies during childbirth. However, the risk of transmission can be significantly reduced through timely vaccination of the newborn, which includes administering hepatitis B immunoglobulin (HBIG) and the hepatitis B vaccine within 12 hours of birth.

The presence of sexually transmitted infections during pregnancy can have serious implications for both the mother and the baby. Timely screening, diagnosis, and treatment are essential to prevent adverse outcomes and ensure the well-being of both the pregnant woman and her child.

How STIs Can Affect Pregnancy

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) can lead to a variety of health complications during pregnancy, potentially affecting both the mother and the unborn child, including:

  1. Increased Risk Of Pregnancy Complications

STIs can increase the risk of various complications during pregnancy, ranging from mild discomfort to life-threatening conditions. For instance, untreated chlamydia and gonorrhea infections may lead to pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), a severe condition that can cause infertility or ectopic pregnancy. Moreover, STIs like syphilis and HIV can be transmitted from mother to baby during pregnancy or childbirth, resulting in congenital infections that may have lifelong consequences.

  1. Preterm Birth

One of the most concerning effects of STIs on pregnancy is the increased risk of preterm birth. Research indicates that certain STIs, such as bacterial vaginosis, trichomoniasis, and genital herpes, are associated with premature labor and delivery. Preterm birth, defined as giving birth before 37 weeks of gestation, can lead to numerous health issues for the newborn, including respiratory problems, developmental delays, and long-term disabilities.

  1. Low Birth Weight

STIs can also contribute to low birth weight, another significant concern during pregnancy. Babies born with low birth weight are at higher risk of complications such as jaundice, difficulty regulating body temperature, and feeding difficulties. Additionally, they may experience long-term health issues, including developmental delays and chronic diseases later in life. STIs like syphilis and HIV have been linked to low birth weight and sexually transmitted diseases, highlighting the importance of early detection and treatment.

  1. Miscarriage And Stillbirth

In some cases, STIs can increase the likelihood of miscarriage or stillbirth, devastating outcomes for expectant parents. Infections such as cytomegalovirus (CMV) and Zika virus have been associated with miscarriages and fetal death. Additionally, untreated syphilis infection can result in stillbirth or neonatal death if the baby is not promptly treated after birth. These tragic consequences underscore the importance of STI screening and management before and during pregnancy.

  1. Vertical Transmission

Vertical transmission refers to transmitting an infection from mother to baby during pregnancy, childbirth, or breastfeeding. Certain STIs, including HIV, syphilis, and hepatitis B, can be vertically transmitted, posing severe risks to the baby’s health. Without appropriate interventions such as antiretroviral therapy or prophylactic treatment, sexually transmitted disease, or birth canal, babies born to mothers with these infections are at high risk of acquiring the disease and experiencing related complications.

  1. Neonatal Infections

Neonatal infections occur within the first month of life and can result from exposure to STIs during childbirth. Babies born to mothers with untreated STIs such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, acquired immune deficiency syndrome, or group B streptococcus (GBS) may develop infections that require medical attention and are called sexually transmitted diseases. These infections can manifest as pneumonia, conjunctivitis, or sepsis and may necessitate hospitalization and antibiotic treatment. Early detection and treatment of maternal STIs can help prevent neonatal infections and reduce the risk of complications.

  1. Impact On Maternal Health

In addition to affecting the baby, STIs can also have significant implications for maternal health during pregnancy. For example, untreated bacterial vaginosis or trichomoniasis can increase the risk of premature rupture of membranes (PROM) and postpartum endometritis, leading to maternal morbidity and prolonged hospital stays. Furthermore, STIs such as syphilis and HIV can progress more rapidly during pregnancy, requiring close monitoring and timely interventions to prevent adverse outcomes for the mother.

  1. Psychological And Emotional Effects

The presence of STIs during pregnancy can evoke a range of psychological and emotional responses in expectant parents. Fear, anxiety, and guilt are common reactions to the diagnosis of an STI, especially when considering the potential impact on the unborn baby. These emotions may interfere with prenatal care and lead to increased stress levels, which can negatively affect maternal and fetal health. Providing comprehensive support and counseling services is essential for addressing the psychosocial aspects of STIs in pregnancy.

STIs can have profound effects on pregnancy outcomes, posing risks to both maternal and fetal health. From increased risk of pregnancy complications to vertical transmission and neonatal infections, the impact of STIs during pregnancy underscores the importance of prevention, screening, and early treatment.

Choices Women’s Clinic offers STI testing and treatment services to help you protect your health and your baby’s health. In addition, we also provide counseling services to address any concerns or questions you may have about STIs during pregnancy.

How Can You Protect Yourself And Your Baby From STIs?

Now that we’ve discussed the potential impact of STIs during pregnancy let’s explore some steps you can take to protect yourself and your baby from these infections.

Prioritize Regular Testing

Regular testing for STIs is essential, especially if you’re sexually active or have a new partner during pregnancy. Many STIs can be asymptomatic; STIs affect pregnant women, meaning you may not show any symptoms even if you’re infected. Testing ensures early detection and treatment, reducing the risk of complications for you and your baby.

Practice Safe Sex

Using condoms consistently and correctly can significantly reduce the risk of contracting STIs. Barrier methods like condoms act as a physical barrier, preventing the exchange of bodily fluids that can transmit infections. Make sure to use condoms every time you have sex, sex partners, infected women, including vaginal, anal, and oral intercourse.

Communicate With Your Partner

Open and honest communication with your partner about STIs is crucial. Discuss each other’s sexual health history, including past infections and testing. If either of you has been diagnosed with an STI in the past, ensure that it’s treated before trying to conceive or continuing sexual activity during pregnancy.

Limit Sexual Partner’s

Reducing the number of sexual partners can lower your risk of STIs. Multiple sexual partners increase the likelihood of exposure to infections. If possible, maintain a monogamous relationship with a partner who has been tested and is free from STIs.

Avoid Sharing Needles

If you or your partner use intravenous drugs, it’s vital to avoid sharing needles. Sharing needles greatly increases the risk of contracting bloodborne STIs such as HIV and hepatitis. Always use clean needles and syringes to prevent infection.

Get Vaccinated

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Some STIs, such as human papillomavirus (HPV) and hepatitis B, can be prevented through vaccination. Talk to your healthcare provider about getting vaccinated before or during pregnancy to protect yourself and your baby from these infections.

Attend Prenatal Care Appointments

Regular prenatal care appointments are essential for monitoring your health and your baby’s health. During these visits, your healthcare provider may screen you for STIs and provide appropriate treatment if necessary. Attending all scheduled appointments allows for early detection and intervention, reducing the risk of complications.

Seek Treatment Promptly

If you’re diagnosed with an STI during pregnancy, it’s crucial to seek treatment promptly. Some STIs can be effectively treated with antibiotics, while others may require ongoing management. Follow your healthcare provider’s recommendations closely to ensure the infection is treated correctly and minimize the transmission risk to your baby.

Protecting yourself and your baby from STIs during pregnancy requires a combination of preventive measures, including regular testing, practicing safe sex, open communication with your partner, and seeking timely treatment if needed. By taking proactive steps and prioritizing your sexual health, you can reduce the risk of complications and ensure a healthy pregnancy and childbirth.

Wrap Up

In conclusion, understanding the relationship between STIs and pregnancy is crucial for expecting parents. The potential impacts on maternal and fetal health highlight the importance of taking preventive measures seriously. By engaging in regular testing, practicing safe sex, communicating openly with your partner, and seeking prompt treatment, you can significantly mitigate the risks associated with STIs during pregnancy.

Ensuring a healthy pregnancy and childbirth involves being proactive about your sexual health. Do not hesitate to reach out to your healthcare provider for testing, vaccinations, and any advice related to STIs. Choices Women’s Clinic supports and empowers you throughout your pregnancy journey. Schedule an appointment today to learn more about our services and how we can help you stay healthy during this crucial time.