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Sexually Transmitted Diseases During Pregnancy

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Sexually transmitted diseases can affect the pregnancy, delivery, and the unborn child. Read the article below to know more.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Raveendran S R

Published At September 2, 2022
Reviewed AtFebruary 8, 2023

Introduction:

STDs are medical diseases that can be prevented and impact pregnancy. Although few STDs cannot be cured, therapies can help to alleviate symptoms. Treatments for all STDs can aid in managing the condition both during and after birth. As a result, it's critical to understand the dangers that STDs represent to a mother's health and the health of her unborn child.

What Are Sexually Transmitted Diseases?

STDs or sexually transmitted diseases are infections spread by sexual contact with someone who has an STD. Sexual behavior that involves the mouth, anus, or vagina transmits sexually transmitted illnesses.

Is It Possible for a Pregnant Woman to Pass On a Sexually Transmitted Disease To Her Unborn Child?

Yes. A pregnant woman can transfer a sexually transmitted disease to her unborn child even before giving birth. It is essential to get checked for STDs before conceiving and immediately after conceiving.

What Are a Few Examples of Sexually Transmitted Diseases in Pregnancy?

Sexually transmitted diseases or infections in pregnancy are classified based on their causative microorganisms:

Bacterial:

Fungal: Candidiasis.

Protozoal: Trichomoniasis.

Parasitic:

Viral:

What Are Some of the Possible STDs Risk Factors for Pregnant Women?

  • Several partners- Two or more in the previous year.

  • Over the last three months, there has been a change in partners.

  • Any sexually transmitted infection (STI) or STI history.

  • Non-use of a barrier during intercourse.

  • Women who conceive under the age of 25.

What Are Some of the Most Prevalent Sexually Transmitted Disease Symptoms in Pregnant Women?

  • A sudden or distinct change in vaginal discharge.
  • Abdominal pain.
  • Presence of any lump, bump, rash, or lesion in the genital area.
  • Pain during urination (dyspareunia).
  • Pain during intercourse / post-coital bleeding (PCB).

What Exactly Is Gonorrhea and How Does It Affect Pregnancy?

Gonorrhea is an (STD) sexually transmitted disease caused by the bacteria N.gonorrhaea.

The implication of gonorrheal infection in pregnancy:

  • Pre rupture of amnion and chorion membranes (membranes surrounding the fetus).

  • Premature delivery: Premature birth is a birth that happens before the 37th week of pregnancy.

  • Chorioamnionitis (chorioamnionitis is a dangerous infection in pregnant women when bacteria invade the membranes surrounding the fetus and the amniotic fluid).

  • About 40% to 50% of babies develop ophthalmia neonatorum (also known as neonatal conjunctivitis, an acute infection of the eye that occurs in the first four weeks of life).

What Exactly Is Syphilis and How Does It Affect Pregnancy?

Syphilis is a spirochetal infection caused by T.pallidum, and it is often observed as a genital ulcer (chancre) that remains unnoticed.

Syphilis can be primary (occurrence of the disease within three months of exposure to bacteria) or secondary (occurrence of the disease after two years of exposure).

The implication of syphilis in pregnancy:

  • Premature Delivery: Premature birth is a birth that happens before the 37th week of pregnancy.

  • Stillbirth: The fetus could be infected directly through the placenta or membranes, with the germs causing damage to crucial maternal or fetal organs like the lung or heart that might cause stillbirth.

  • Congenital Syphilis: Congenital syphilis is a serious, debilitating, and frequently fatal condition that affects children after a pregnant mother with syphilis spreads the infection to the unborn child through the placenta.

  • Miscarriage: A miscarriage occurs when the pregnancy ends before the 20th week.

What Effect Does the Herpes Simplex Virus Have on Mother and Newborn Health?

Herpes simplex virus can affect the orolabial and genital area (type 1) or genital area alone (type 2). Primary attack on pregnant women can cause some severe complications such as:

  • Meningitis - Infection, and inflammation of the membrane of the brain.

  • Sacral Radiculopathy - Back pain radiates along the sacral nerve and can be aggravated by urine retention and constipation.

  • Transverse Myelitis - Neurological disorder caused by infection of the spinal cord.

  • Dissemination of infection to a different part of the body.

  • It can also cause preterm birth and miscarriage.

  • Neonatal transmission can cause infection in the eye and orolabial region. It may also cause long-term effects such as mental retardation.

What Effect Does the Human Papillomavirus Have on Mother and Newborn Health?

Human papillomavirus infection can represent typical cauliflower-shaped warts or lumps in the genito-anal region.

They are usually asymptomatic and identified on clinical examination of the affected area.

The implications of HPV on pregnancy is as follows:

  • Genital warts multiply during pregnancy and regress after delivery.

  • Very rarely exposed babies develop genital or laryngeal warts.

  • Pregnant women infected with HPV are not indicated for C-section delivery as it results in excessive bleeding.

What Effect Does Chlamydia Infection Have on Mother and Newborn Health?

Chlamydia can cause:

  • Ectopic pregnancy and tubal disease can cause infertility.

  • Premature delivery and preterm rupture of fetal membranes.

  • Neonatal conjunctivitis (eye infection of a newborn).

  • Neonatal pneumonia (lung infection of a newborn).

What Effect Does Trichomonas Infection Have on Mother and Newborn Health?

Trichomonas infection is associated with low birth weight and premature delivery of newborns.

How Can HIV Affect Pregnancy and the Outcomes of Pregnancy?

HIV infection is linked to a higher rate of :

  • Spontaneous abortion.

  • Stillbirth.

  • Infant mortality.

  • Intrauterine development retardation.

  • Low birth weight.

  • Chorioamnionitis.

Is a Candidal Infection Dangerous?

Candidiasis is a fungal infection that is routinely seen. It could be dangerous if the individual is immunocompromised or if there are any other sexually transmitted infections.

How Can a Pregnant Woman Avoid Contracting an STD?

Pregnant women can avoid STDs by:

  • Avoiding sex during pregnancy.

  • Using barrier protection during intercourse.

  • Practicing monogamy (single sexual partner).

  • Avoiding multiple sexual partners.

  • Screening for STDs during the first few weeks of pregnancy.

  • Screening for STDs if sexually interacting with a new partner.

What Are the Ways to Deal With Sexually Transmitted Infections When Pregnant?

The treatment of a pregnant woman infected with a sexually transmitted disease will be determined by the resources available and the lady's specific needs. The usual line of therapy includes administering particular antibiotics and medications that would minimize the vertical transmission of infection from the mother to the unborn.

If the mother is a known cause of any sexual transmission infection, prophylaxis antibiotics are recommended before conception.

Can Sexually Transmit Diseases Spread Through Breastfeeding?

Yes and No. If the mother is infected with HIV (human immunodeficiency virus), the infection may be likely to spread via breast milk. It is advisable to choose an alternative feeding option.

Suppose a mother is infected with sexually transmitted diseases such as genital sore, herpes, or syphilis. In that case, it is acceptable to breastfeed until the infected area doesn't come in contact with a newborn. If on any medications for STDs, it is advisable to take a doctor's opinion before breastfeeding. As the drug used in the treatment of STDs may affect the child.

Conclusion:

Sexually transmitted diseases are acquired most of the time. It is always better to avoid them than deal with the consequences after. Treatment of STDs during pregnancy is tricky as the drugs of choice change to protect maternally and infant health. It is advisable to get checked for STDs biannually before and after conception.

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Dr. Raveendran S R
Dr. Raveendran S R

Sexology

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