Q&A: Can STDs Affect Pregnancy?
Can STDs affect my pregnancy? If so, how do they affect the baby?
Good question. Not many people like to talk about STDs, but it’s important to be open about all health issues with your doc to ensure that baby is healthy. As a general rule, you should get tested at your annual gyno exam. If this isn’t the case, it’s extremely important that you’re tested and treated while TTC (screening for STDs is part of routine prenatal appointments). If you’re infected and get pregnant, keep up-to-date with your treatments (if it doesn’t affect baby) and continuously ask your doc questions. Read on for some must-know facts about STDs and how they may affect baby...
Chlamydia and Gonorrhea
Risks include your water breaking early, preterm birth, a miscarriage, and baby contracting pneumonia or an eye infection (due to contact during delivery). Luckily, you can be treated with antibiotics during pregnancy. Keep in mind that women generally have no symptoms, so it’s a good idea to be tested just in case.
A sure sign of herpes is painful sores or blisters down there, but sometimes there are no symptoms. The sores will heal and then sporadically reappear because the virus remains in your body. During delivery, if there’s an outbreak, the safe option is a c-section; otherwise, baby can be infected (this can cause blindness, mental retardation, damage to the nervous system, or death). Keep in mind that a c-section isn’t 100 percent effective because if your water breaks a few hours before birth, the virus can spread to baby.
Human Papillomavirus (HPV)
This usually, but not always, results in itchy and bloody genital warts. The good news is that there’s only a slight risk that baby can be infected (in rare cases, baby gets warts on her throat). In general, genital warts go away by themselves and certain medications that may cause birth defects shouldn’t be used during pregnancy. A c-section may be needed if the warts make it difficult for baby to come out.
It can be hard to detect because the painless sore (known as a chancre) can hide deep within your vagina. A blood test after the early stages or testing a sample from the sore will determine if you have it. It can be passed to baby through the bloodstream and may cause a miscarriage, stillbirth, or your water to break early. If baby contracts syphilis, he may have birth defects, but treatment after birth can prevent more damage. If you do have syphilis, it’s important you take care of yourself (plus baby!) and get treated the first three to four months of pregnancy.
You may have no symptoms, and there’s a risk for your water to break early and for preterm delivery. The good news is that it’s safe to be treated during pregnancy (with antibiotics).
Human Immunodeficiency Virus Infection (HIV)
HIV can be passed to baby during pregnancy or delivery. Without treatment, there’s a 25 percent chance that baby will get the virus. Treatment should continue through pregnancy to delivery and be given to baby her first six weeks. A c-section may help prevent spreading the virus, but nursing can pass the virus to baby.