An STI or sexually transmitted infection is an infection with an infectious agent that has been transmitted through sex though touching and/or kissing can also lead to an infection. An STD or sexually transmitted disease is a disease usually induced by an infection.
Sexually transmitted infections and diseases affect more than 2 million women every year. This number can only be tallied by the number of women who are treated or diagnosed with a sexually transmitted disease making the real number more than likely far greater than that 2 million. A sexually transmitted disease is not only hard on mom’s body, but the baby's as well.
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Getting pregnant with an STI/STD
Many women have little or no knowledge of their positive STI/STD status until after they are pregnant. The normal testing that is prescribed during the weeks of gestation often includes a series of tests for sexually transmitted diseases. The obstetrician will test for sexually transmitted diseases due to the fact that in some cases the infection may pass to the baby and possibly cause the fetus to be stillborn or self-abort.
Can your baby contract the STI/STD?
Depending on the sexually transmitted infection or disease there are varying effects on the baby. With syphilis, the infection can cross over from mom to baby and infect the baby with the disease. Syphilis can hinder the development of the fetus. Gonorrhea, Hepatitis B, Chlamydia, and Genital Herpes are contact infections. When the baby passes through the vaginal canal during the birthing process these diseases can be passed on to the baby. The Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is the virus that causes AIDS. HIV can pass either through the placenta to the baby or infect the baby during the birthing process.
The effects of an STI/STD on pregnancy
For a mother-to-be, early-onset labor, early water (membranes around the baby) breakage, and infection of the uterus may hinder the pregnancy. Moreover, if the sexually transmitted disease is left untreated it can lead to further health problems for mom. Untreated sexually transmitted diseases can progress to cervical cancer, pelvic cancers, chronic hepatitis, or cirrhosis of the liver.
The effects of an STI/STD on the baby
The effects of an STD on a baby can include stillbirth, conjunctivitis, lower birth weight, lung infections, water retention in the lungs, neonatal sepsis (blood infection), loss of vision, loss of hearing, brain damage, meningitis, and cirrhosis of the liver, to name just a few.
Treating an STI/STD during pregnancy
Luckily for mom, if the sexually transmitted disease is caused by bacteria, an antibiotic can be given during the pregnancy to clear up the infection and help to prevent any harmful effects on the baby either in-utero or during the birthing process.
If the sexually transmitted disease is viral, such as HIV or genital herpes, the virus cannot be cured. Pregnant women can however receive treatment for HIV during pregnancy and this treatment will greatly reduce the chances of the baby being born with HIV. If a genital herpes outbreak occurs during the time of birth, a cesarean section (C-section) will often be performed in order to reduce the risk of passing the infection on to the baby.
Reducing the chances of contracting an STD is the best choice for all women of child-bearing age. The use of condoms or the maintenance of a monogamous relationship will often lessen the chances of contracting an STD.