With early diagnosis and treatment, most STDs don’t affect your health very much.
Even with incurable STDs like HIV you can still live a pretty normal lifestyle if you start on medication early. If you have a bacterial STD like chlamydia, a round of antibiotics clears it up in no time.
But the story is different when it comes to babies and newborns.
They still don’t have a robust immune system and the medication used to treat STDs in adults may not be right for them.
So sexually transmitted infections can have serious health effects, some that last for life. In many cases they can also be fatal.
So it’s extremely important for pregnant women, or a couple planning to get pregnant, to know their health status and protect themselves even more than usual. This includes getting tested frequently either at a clinic or via online STD testing.
Your doctor may automatically screen for some STDs during your prenatal visits. But make sure you also get separate tests for common STDs.
Here’s how different STDs affect your pregnancy and your baby.
You can transmit syphilis to the fetus during pregnancy and cause congenital syphilis, a very serious infection in infants.
Congenital syphilis can cause serious organ problems in the brain, eyes, ears or skin. The baby may be born blind, with bone pain and skin scarring.
In serious cases it can result in a still birth or cause death shortly after birth. It can also cause premature birth.
Chlamydia is one of the most common STDs in the US.
While you will most likely not transmit the infection during pregnancy the baby might be exposed during delivery.
This could result in pneumonia and eye infection. Chlamydia has also been linked in a higher risk of preterm delivery and miscarriage.
Chlamydia is especially dangerous because it usually doesn’t show any symptoms. So it’s important to get a test and repeat it after three months.
If you have untreated gonorrhea you stand a higher risk of miscarriage, low birth weight and preterm birth.
There is also a high chance of spreading the infection to your baby during delivery. Early testing and treatment can protect both the mother and the baby.
Herpes is most dangerous to the baby during delivery. The lesions that develop around the genitals are highly contagious. If the baby gets infected it can lead to serious infection of the nervous system and in many cases, death.
The risk of transmission is highest in mothers who acquire the infection in the third trimester. For mothers who got the infection early in the pregnancy or before getting pregnant there is a very low risk of transmission to the baby.
This is because the body has had time to create antibodies against the infection. These antibodies pass on to the baby and offer natural protection.
Doctors usually recommend a caesarean section for pregnant mothers with herpes to reduce the risk of transmitting the infection.
You can pass hepatitis B to your baby during pregnancy especially if you got infected in the 3rd trimester. Most infected children become lifelong carriers and a quarter of them eventually die from chronic liver disease, according to the CDC.
Timely screening and treatment can prevent mother-to-child transmission.
Hepatitis C passes on to unborn babies about 10% of the time. It can result in low birth weight and premature birth.
Luckily, many infants that are born with this infection are not affected by any symptoms and can get better without any medical intervention.
HPV (genital warts) usually doesn’t affect the baby either during pregnancy or birth. But the warts that develop on the mother’s genitalia can grow so big as to complicate delivery. In such cases the doctor may recommend a cesarean section.
HIV can be passed to the child through the placenta, during delivery or when breastfeeding. Luckily modern medicine has drastically reduced mother-to-child transmissions. But you have to get tested early and begin treatment.
Prevention and Treatment of STDs During Pregnancy
If you are planning to get pregnant make sure you screen for any STD.
If you are pregnant get a test immediately. You can get an STD test online or visit a local clinic. Online STD testing provides better privacy.
If you test positive see your doctor immediately. They will recommend a treatment method based on the type of STD, its severity and the health condition of your pregnancy.