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Women who are pregnant or are attempting to conceive have a lot on their minds. They're probably busy getting their homes ready for their new additions, trying to choose a name and looking at potential daycare or nannies. However, one thing that may not be a prominent concern is testing for sexually transmitted diseases. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, STDs such as such as genital herpes and bacterial vaginosis are surprisingly common in pregnant women. Furthermore, infections such as syphilis may be passed on to a baby and can cause serious side effects such as blindness. As such, women should look into STD testing services before they attempt to get pregnant, or early on their pregnancy.
Recently, researchers from Michigan State University's College of Human Medicine discovered that if women go to the emergency room with symptoms of an STD, they may not get the treatment they need, which is all the more reason for women to utilize STD testing before their pregnancy.
Difficult to tell
Published in the American Journal of Emergency Medicine, the study found that ER doctors are unable to treat pregnant patients for STDs, despite the fact the the antibiotics to treat many of these diseases are relatively inexpensive and available.
Researchers looked at more than 730 women with gonorrhea or chlamydia who visited the ERs of three hospitals in Grand Rapids, Mich. They found that about half of the women did not get the care they needed and, out of the 179 who were pregnant, only 20 percent received treatment in the ER .
According to lead author Roman Krivochenitser, a third-year student in Michigan State University's College of Human Medicine, the issue is that it takes a few days to get lab results for these STDs, and many women don't end up coming back to the ER for their necessary medicine.
"A lot of patients leave a phone number that's disconnected, or they just don't pick up the phone," Krivochenitser said in a statement. "The doctors are doing everything right. It's just that we don't yet have the technology for on-the-spot testing."
Furthermore, he added that the symptoms of STDs often overlap with pregnancy symptoms, which is another reason why they are difficult to diagnose in pregnant women.
"You could do a very thorough workup to find out what's causing abdominal pain in a pregnant woman," said Krivochenitser. "But if you're pregnant, there's a certain amount of abdominal discomfort we expect."
Important to treat
It's very important that pregnant women with STDs get prompt treatment, since the researchers added that gonorrhea and chlamydia can raise the risk of preterm delivery and low birth weight. They can also cause pelvic inflammatory disease and other complications in the mother. However, Krivochenitser stated that all of these issues can be easily treated with the use of antibiotics. He suggested that it may be time for the CDC to re-think its stance on treating STDs in ERs, especially since this is where many women without insurance go for medical attention. The CDC has regulations in place that currently prevent ER doctors from treating STDs, in an effort to avoid overprescribing antibiotics. When antibiotics are prescribed too often, bacteria can develop a resistance to the drugs.
Regardless, Krivochenitser said the CDC should weigh the benefits and risks of giving out antibiotics, and they might see that protecting pregnant women from spreading STDs to their babies is the most important thing.
"When someone visits their family physician, there may be more time to weigh those risks, but things in the emergency department move twice as fast. We have to make very quick decisions," concluded Krivochenitser.
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