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Category: Sexually Transmitted Diseases
Sexually transmitted diseases can pose a serious problem to women who are pregnant. While infections are generally not considered a major pregnancy risk factor, high numbers of women are infected while carrying a baby each year. Experts say individuals should consider STD testing in order to ensure they are not carrying an infection that could affect their health or the well-being of their baby.
How prevalent is the problem?
Each year, more than 1 million pregnant women are infected with bacterial vaginosis, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, making it the most common STD found in pregnant women.
Herpes 2 is also very common, with roughly 880,000 pregnant women receiving positive STD tests for this infection each year. Chlamydia, trichomoniasis and gonorrhea are the next most prevalent infections. Syphilis and HIV tend to be relatively uncommon during pregnancy.
What are the risks?
Contracting an STD during pregnancy can pose a major threat to the health of the mother and her unborn child. The CDC reports that early labor, stillbirth, low birth weight, conjunctivitis, pneumonia, brain damage, blindness, deafness and liver disease are all risk factors associated with maternal STD infection.
Furthermore, syphilis and HIV can pass through the placenta and infect the baby prior to delivery. Newborns can pick up other infections, including gonorrhea, chlamydia, hepatitis B and genital herpes, during the birthing process.
How can women protect themselves and their babies?
Safe sex practices are the same whether a woman is pregnant or not. Individuals should use condoms during all sexual encounters with individuals who have not shared their STD test results. Furthermore, women should be screened for infections to make sure there are no threats to their child. Abstaining from intercourse may be another way to reduce risk for those who are not in a monogamous relationship.
It is possible to treat bacterial infections like chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis during pregnancy. A round of antibiotics will kill the infection while posing little risk to the baby. However, viral infections, including herpes and HIV, cannot be cured.
Given the low levels of awareness of STD risk during pregnancy, many women may be unaware of the danger infection can pose to themselves and their baby. Practicing safe sex and considering STD testing may be among the best ways to reduce risk.
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