Pregnancy and STDs

Can a woman pass along an STD to her infant during either pregnancy or birth?

Yes, several STDs may be transmitted from the mother to her child, and the process can happen either while she is carrying the fetus or during labor. STDs can cause premature delivery, blindness, stillbirth, and even miscarriages. For those children carried to term, they face increased chances of many problems, some of which may not become apparent for quite a while after birth. This, combined with the fact that many women can have a disease without any symptoms, makes it absolutely important that any woman planning a pregnancy should be screened thoroughly - and treated in advance.

Chlamydia and gonorrhea are often transmitted together, and both infections can be cleared up through a course of antibiotics. If left untreated, these diseases can be transmitted to an infant during birth, and the child may end up blind as a result. The infant may also develop pneumonia from chlamydia. Although with either of these STDs it is better to be treated before conceiving, different drugs may be administered to a pregnant woman that can clear up her infection without harming her fetus. Again, because the two diseases are commonly found together, she may want to ask her doctor to either test for the other infection or request the medication necessary to treat it as a preventive measure. Syphilis can also be treated cured with antibiotics. However, this disease is especially dangerous for pregnancies, since it may be transmitted through the mother's blood to her unborn infant. About half of all pregnancies in syphilitic mothers lead to either premature or stillbirths. Those infants who do survive may not show any problems until later in life. Since syphilis may not produce any symptoms, or it may hide for many years, it is standard to test all pregnant women for the disease.

On the other hand, while its symptoms may be brought under control, there is no cure for herpes. While a woman may be asymptomatic for a very long time, she still carries the virus that causes outbreaks, which can often reappear as a result of the stresses of pregnancy. A pregnant woman must be carefully monitored and accordingly treated throughout the time she is carrying a child, and when she is in labor, she needs to be examined for any open lesions. If any are found, it is recommended that the child is delivered by cesarean section to avoid any disease transmission - herpes can cause blindness, brain damage, and even death in infected infants.

Since most STDs can either be cured or brought under control by medication, but can also be harmful to a fetus, it just makes sense for a woman to get herself tested and properly treated if she is planning a pregnancy in order to give her child a healthy start on life.

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