Syphilis is a sexually transmitted infection or STI, that is fairly uncommon in pregnancy in the United States. In 2007, about one out of every 100,000 pregnant women tested positive for syphilis. The organism responsible for syphilis is a sprirochete called 'Treponema pallidum".
Due to the increased risk of pregnancy complications, women are typically screened for syphilis during prenatal testing. If caught early, syphilis can be treated effectively with pregnancy-safe antibiotics. If left untreated, the infection can cause severe pregnancy complications.
Who is at Risk of Syphilis During Pregnancy?
STIs are passed from one partner to the other. The carrying partner may not have any symptoms of infection, but infection is passed none-the-less. Men and women with multiple or non-monogamous sexual partners are at increased risk of syphilis. If you are in a monogamous relationship, your risk of syphilis falls dramatically.
If syphilis is detected in the first or second stages, it can be cured. If the condition goes untreated and moves to the third stage, symptoms may not appear for 30 years or more. When symptoms reappear, they can cause loss of vision, loss of hearing, psychosis, heart abnormalities and death.
Symptoms of Syphilis During Pregnancy
Syphilis is a progressive infection with different symptoms for each progressive stage. There are also variable symptoms from one person to another, which means there is no definitive set of symptoms that all pregnant women will suffer from when infected with syphilis. The most common symptoms a pregnant woman may experience are:
Treatment for Syphilis in Pregnancy
If the infection is caught in the early stages, it can be treated during pregnancy with penicillin. There are other antibiotics commonly used to treat syphilis infections, but none are safe for use during pregnancy. Your partner will also likely be treated for syphilis, especially if her or she has tested positive for the infection. After the course of antibiotics is complete, pregnant women undergo a blood test to ensure the infection has cleared. An ultrasound may also be scheduled to check on the condition of the fetus. Common effects of syphilis infection on the fetus include:
Symptoms at birth may include:
If the condition is not treated in the early stages, symptoms may disappear for a lengthy period of time. When symptoms reappear, the condition will likely be advanced to the point where antibiotics are useless.