Pregnancy and Sexually Transmitted Diseases

Did you know that approximately two million pregnant women suffer from STDs at this point? This is what the Center for Disease Control reports and yet, many women have no idea that these diseases can infect them.

Sex education is more important than ever, both for women carrying a baby and those who do not. However, in the case where a pregnant woman has an STD, this can harm both the woman and her unborn baby.

When the time comes to have a baby, you can no longer live carefree days. Still, there is no reason to panic.

Most STDs can be fully treated and the complications with infants arise in cases where the woman has not been tested, did not protect herself or left the disease untreated.  This means that there are steps women can take to protect both themselves and their babies.

STDs and Pregnant Women

Generally speaking, there are five most common sexually transmitted diseases in pregnant women:

Trichomoniasis

The trichomoniasis is caused by the parasite Trichomonas vaginalis. This STD affects approximately 80,000 pregnant women yearly, which makes it the most common STD among pregnant women.

If you suffer from Trichomoniasis during pregnancy, you are at increased risk of:

  • Premature membrane rupture or PPRM
  • Premature delivery
  • Higher susceptibility to other STDs

The symptoms include greenish, yellowish or grayish vaginal discharge and unpleasant odor. If you experience any of these symptoms, you should definitely be tested.

Herpes

The herpes simplex virus causes a variety of symptoms, most typically cold sores. According to the American Social Health Association, 25 to 30 percent of all pregnant women have this virus, but only 5 to 10 percent have active sores outbreak around the buttocks and vagina.

Newly infected pregnant women do not have the antibodies they need to pass on the virus to the fetus. However, even though the percentage of babies who contract herpes is less than 0.1 in the US, women with herpes can suffer severe consequences.

Neonatal herpes can cause mental retardation, damage the central nervous system and cause death in a woman.

Still, experts do not recommend routine screening for herpes in pregnant women. The majority of women who will test positive for the disease have had a mild case without any symptoms. Therefore, you should only opt to get tested in cases where you partner has herpes and abstain from sex if they have an active herpes outbreak.

Chlamydia

Caused by the bacterium called Chlamydia Trachomatis, this STD can cause a pelvic inflammatory disease that threatens fertility in women. Chlamydia can easily spread into the fallopian tubes and the uterus and cause such complications. Still, even 75% of all infected women may not even experience a single symptom of the infection, which means that they have no way of knowing they are infected.

Estimates say that 2.9 million Americans are tested and diagnosed with Chlamydia each year. This number includes 200 thousands of pregnant women, which makes it one of the most dangerous STDs for women carrying a baby.

You can easily pass Chlamydia to a baby during the delivery process. As a result, the newborn could develop pneumonia, which can often be fatal.

In this case, experts recommend that all pregnant women be tested for Chlamydia at the first prenatal visit.

Bacterial Vaginosis

When the bacteria in the vagina are imbalanced, a bacterial vaginosis can occur. This is the most common known vaginal infection in pregnant women and those of childbearing age.

According to the CDC, approximately 16% of all pregnant women are infected with BV.

BV can do a lot of damage when it comes to pregnant women, the most common problems being:

  • Preterm birth and labor
  • Miscarriage, most often in the second trimester

Still, experts do not recommend that every pregnant woman be tested. You should get tested if the symptoms of this infection are present and clear.

Symptoms of BV include a gray or thin white discharge and a fishlike, strong odor.

Human Papillomavirus

Human Papillomavirus or HPV is one of the most popular STDs on a worldwide level and the most common STD in the United States.

At some point of their lives, about 75% of all people are infected with genital HPV, but in most cases, the infection clears up on its own.

This infection is due to a group of viruses and therefore, has over 100 different strains. More than 30 of these strains can be sexually transmitted and infect the cervix, butt, vagina or penis in people.

Out of these 30, half are closely linked to cervical cancer and genital warts.

If you have the strain linked to cervical cancer, the risk of passing it to an unborn baby is very little. Women with HPV can usually deliver their babies vaginally, but their genital warts may grow rapidly during pregnancy.

In rare cases, mothers can pass the HPV infection during childbirth. The number of infants who are infected is very small, but there are cases where newborns develop a condition that results in tumor growth in the throat. This condition is called respiratory papillomatosis and can be surgically removed, but it is often recurring.

How to Avoid STDs during Pregnancy

The ways to avoid sexually transmitted infections during pregnancy is the same as when you are not pregnant. In order to avoid this disease and its spreading to your unborn baby, make sure to:

  • Use condoms and dental dams during penetrative and oral sex
  • Avoid having many sexual partners
  • Avoid sex with new partners until you have been tested for STDs
  • Get a vaccine against hepatitis and HPV
  • Do not take drugs or drink alcohol excessively

As a woman and a future mother, it is important to know whether or not you are infected with a sexually transmitted disease. This will keep both you and your baby protected, so make sure to treat any of the diagnosed infections in your body as soon as possible.

 

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