Having a sexually transmitted disease (STD) during pregnancy increases your risk of serious complications, including miscarriage, stillbirth, and preterm delivery. You can also pass the infection to your baby in the womb, during labor, or while breastfeeding.
OB/GYN Sharon Breit, MD, and our women’s health team at the Center for Women’s Health are devoted to providing the best possible prenatal and postnatal care. Having an STD during pregnancy can harm the baby and cause problems for the expectant mother.
The exact risk varies depending on the type of STD and how well the condition is controlled during pregnancy.
If you have an STD or are concerned that you may have one, consult with a provider about treatment and prenatal care. Treatment is crucial to keeping you and your baby as healthy as possible.
If you’re trying to conceive, it’s wise to have a pre-pregnancy STD screening. We can treat many STDs before you become pregnant so you avoid complications during the pregnancy.
STD screening may include:
- Pelvic examination
- Blood tests
- Urine analysis
Additionally, we recommend that all pregnant women get tested for HIV. Vaccines can protect you from contracting some STDs, such as hepatitis B and HPV.
How STDs affect pregnancy
The effect of an STD on pregnancy depends on the type of STD. Here are some of the most common STDs and how they may affect pregnancy.
Untreated chlamydia in pregnant women can cause preterm birth. It can also cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), which can permanently damage your uterus or fallopian tubes. This can increase the likelihood of an ectopic pregnancy and cause fertility issues.
Chlamydia can be passed along during childbirth. This can result in the baby being born with conjunctivitis or pneumonia.
HPV is the most common STD. Most HPV patients recover completely, but some may develop genital warts. If you develop genital warts while pregnant, you may postpone treatment until after you give birth.
Pregnancy hormones can sometimes cause them to grow larger. If they grow large enough to obstruct the birth canal, you may need to deliver your baby by cesarean section.
HPV refers to a group of viruses. High-risk types of HPV during pregnancy are linked to a higher risk of miscarriage.
Gonorrhea is the result of a bacterial infection. During pregnancy, gonorrhea is linked to miscarriage and preterm birth. It can also cause your water to break too soon.
Untreated gonorrhea, like chlamydia, can cause PID and permanently damage your uterus or fallopian tubes, which raises the risk of ectopic pregnancy.
During vaginal delivery, gonorrhea can also be transmitted to the infant through the birth canal. Gonorrhea in babies can cause blindness and life-threatening blood infections or joint infections.
During pregnancy, childbirth, or after birth, a person with genital herpes can pass the infection to the baby. While genital herpes is rarely life-threatening for adults, neonatal herpes can be fatal.
Hepatitis B is a viral infection that causes liver damage. A pregnant woman can pass hepatitis B to her fetus during pregnancy. If you become infected closer to the due date, the risk of transmission increases.
Infants infected with hepatitis B are more likely to develop chronic liver disease or liver cancer.
Syphilis is a bacterial infection and if left untreated, it can have serious health consequences for both the mother and fetus.
You run the risk of passing the infection to your unborn child. This is known as congenital syphilis, and it can cause premature birth and stillbirth.
Babies born with congenital syphilis may not show symptoms right away, but without treatment, complications can arise within a few weeks. The infection can affect the baby’s brain, heart, eyes, and bones.
Trichomoniasis doesn’t always cause apparent symptoms, but infection during pregnancy can cause preterm birth.
Keeping you and your baby healthy
Helping you have as healthy a pregnancy as possible is our No. 1 priority. For top-quality prenatal care, contact our office, and a team member can assist you in scheduling a visit with Dr. Breit.
Call our clinic in Wichita, Kansas, to schedule a visit. We offer in-person and telehealth appointments. A member of our team will determine if your visit is eligible for a telemedicine appointment.