Written on March 12, 2023 by Lori Mulligan, MPH. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.
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As defined by the Mayo Clinic, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) — or sexually transmitted infections (STIs) — are generally acquired by sexual contact. The bacteria, viruses, or parasites that cause sexually transmitted diseases may pass from person to person in blood, semen, or vaginal and other bodily fluids, as well as in some cases skin to skin contact, particularly when there is an open sore or wound.
However, sometimes these infections can be transmitted nonsexually, such as from mothers to their infants during pregnancy or childbirth, or through blood transfusions or shared needles .
We are going to take a closer look at STDs in pregnant women. Before we do, let’s review the symptoms of STDs in pregnant women.
STDs or STIs can have a range of signs and symptoms, including no symptoms. That’s why they may go unnoticed until complications occur or a partner is diagnosed.
Signs and symptoms that might indicate an STI include :
The signs and symptoms may appear a few days after exposure. However, it may take years before you have any noticeable problems, depending on the organism causing the STD.
Certain STDs can be passed from mothers to their infants during pregnancy or delivery. STIs in infants can cause serious problems or even death. All pregnant women should be screened for STIs since many STIs do not present with symptoms. Screening for STIs at the outset enables the opportunity for treatment.
The Cleveland Clinic provides examples of STIs that can cause complications in pregnant women and their children and describes treatment options available:
Pregnancy seems to be unaffected by chlamydia infection. However, infants exposed to the infection at birth can develop severe eye infections or pneumonia.
Treatment: Mothers with chlamydia are treated with antibiotics and all newborn babies are given antibiotic eye ointment after birth to prevent infections.
Herpes infection in pregnant people is relatively safe until you get ready to deliver. Active herpes lesions on the genitals are contagious and can infect the infant during childbirth. Thus, many people with genital herpes deliver via cesarean section.
Treatment: Antiviral medications can be given. A cesarean section may be done if indicated.
If contracted during pregnancy, the infection can cause mouth sores, fever, and bloodstream infections. The fetus is usually unaffected. But if the baby is born while the mother has an active infection, they may develop an eye infection or blindness, joint infections, or blood infections.
Treatment: Mothers with gonorrhea are treated with antibiotics and all newborn babies are given antibiotic eye ointment after birth to prevent infections.
This is a liver infection caused by the hepatitis B virus. If a pregnant person is infected with hepatitis B, they can transmit the infection to the fetus through the placenta.
In addition, women with hepatitis B are more likely to have premature birth delivery. However, early screening and vaccination can prevent the worst outcomes of this infection.
Treatment: If you have hepatitis B, your provider will give your newborn baby an injection of antibodies and a vaccine to prevent the baby from becoming infected.
Thanks to the advent of powerful medication combinations, transmission of HIV infection to your infant is almost completely preventable.
Treatment: Although HIV/AIDS is an incurable disease, you can prevent transmitting the virus to your baby by taking various medications.
HPV is a common STI that can present with lesions or may have no symptoms at all.
Treatment: If you contract genital warts during pregnancy, treatment may be delayed until after you deliver. Delivery is only affected if large genital warts are present, and your healthcare provider will discuss delivery options with you.
Syphilis is easily passed on to the fetus and is likely to cause fatal infections. Untreated fetuses can be born prematurely or develop problems in multiple organs, including eyes, ears, heart, skin, and bones.
Treatment: Your healthcare provider will likely prescribe antibiotics to you during pregnancy to reduce the risk of transmission to the fetus.
This is a parasite that causes vaginal discharge. If left untreated, babies can be premature and have low birth weights.
Treatment: This infection is easily treatable with antibiotics .
The female STI kit discreetly checks for the following STIs:
If abnormal results are detected, you’ll have the opportunity to connect with our independent physician network and may receive treatment, if applicable.
If you’re experiencing burning when urinating, pelvic pain, pain during sex, itching or sores around the genitals, or unusual discharge from the penis or vagina, your symptoms may be due to an STI. If you think you may have been exposed to an STI or have questions about your sexual health, book an STD treatment online video appointment with a clinician who can start you on your path to a diagnosis and treatment.
What happens if you have an STD while pregnant?
Chlamydia during pregnancy: what you need to know
STDs in Women: A Comprehensive Guide
How to treat gonorrhea in males