According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), some sexually transmitted diseases (STD), such as genital herpes and bacterial vaginosis, are quite common in pregnant women in the United States. In fact, 1,080,000 new cases are diagnosed each year of bacterial vaginosis with herpes infections coming in second place at 880,000. The Identigene STD kit tests for gonorrhea and chlamydia infections. You might wonder how many new cases of these two infections the CDC reports are found in pregnant women a year – approximately 100,000 cases of chlamydia and 13,200 of gonorrhea.
So why is it important to get screened at your initial pregnancy exam with your gynecologist? Very often, women do not know they have an STD because the symptoms are “silent”, with no noticeable symptoms.
What are the effects of STDs? STDs can lead to cervical and other cancers, chronic hepatitis, pelvic inflammatory disease, and infertility. STDs can also be passed from mother to baby before, during, or after childbirth. For example, syphilis and HIV can cross the placenta and infect the baby while it is in the uterus. Other STDs, like gonorrhea, chlamydia, hepatitis B, and genital herpes, can be transmitted to the baby traveling through the birth canal and out of the vagina. If a baby contracts a STD from its mother, there is a higher chance of stillbirth or low birth weight. A newborn that contracts a STD also risks eye infection, pneumonia, blood infection, brain damage, blindness, deafness, acute hepatitis, meningitis, chronic liver disease, and cirrhosis.
Diagnosing an STD can help the doctor determine if vaginal delivery is safe for your baby. In some cases, a C-Section is warranted to protect the baby from coming in contact with an active genital herpes infection or HIV.
The good news is that most STDs are curable with antibiotics. Some STDs, like herpes and HIV, are viral and can only be controlled or treated. It is best to be knowledgeable about your health so that you don’t pass on an STD to your baby or your partner.
Doctors often routinely screen pregnant women for STDs. If you’re not sure whether you’ve had the test, ask the question. Now’s not the time to be embarrassed! Take it from someone who has delivered two babies, the doctors and nurses have seen it all! The most important thing is for your doctor to know everything going on so that you and your baby have the right care.