Pregnancy and STIs

After diagnosis of pregnancy, health care providers normally test for STIs, including Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, Hepatitis B, Syphilis, HIV, and sometimes Herpes and Genital Warts/HPV. Though this may seem frightening, not knowing–and not getting treated–can be harmful and even fatal to you and your baby. Click for a short CDC fact sheet.

Remember, even if you are getting treatment for an STI, you can be re-infected by a sexual partner who is not being treated. (Click for some other common health concerns.)

  • Chlamydia

    • For You: untreated, it can cause preterm labor, preterm rupture of membranes and inflammation of the lining of the uterus.
    • For Your Baby: Babies infected during birth can suffer from pneumonia and conjunctivitis (pink eye), which can lead to blindness if untreated.
    • Chlamydia Information provided by the Center for Disease Control
  • Gonorrhea

    • For You: Most people who are infected with Gonorrhea have no symptoms and are not aware that they are infected. Sometimes women may experience vaginal discharge and itching. Gonorrhea is frequently found in patients who have Chlamydia.
    • For Your Baby: Untreated, Gonorrhea can cause eye problems for a newborn, often leading to blindness.
    • Gonorrhea information provided by the Center for Disease Control
  • Hepatitis B

    • For You: Hepatitis B infection spreads through sexual intercourse and/or contact with an infected person’s blood or body fluids. When first contracted, you may experience fatigue, nausea, vomiting, muscle and joint pain, headache, dark urine, gray stools, chest cold and jaundice, but many infected people don’t know it. Some people infected with Hepatitis B become ”chronic carriers.”  Chronic carriers have no symptoms but can still infect others and may also develop liver disease and liver cancer.
    • For Your Baby: Babies infected during pregnancy or childbirth may suffer serious liver problems.
    • Protect Your Baby for Life and Hepatitis B and Your Baby
  • Syphilis

    • For You: The primary symptom of Syphilis is a painless genital sore. The sore will go away without treatment, but the bacteria remains in your body. Untreated, Syphilis may cause flu-like symptoms and, over time, can cause serious damage to the heart and central nervous system, and long-term brain, skin, bone, and liver problems.
    • For Your Baby: Untreated, Syphilis can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, or death soon after birth in 40% of infected babies.*
    • Syphilis Fact Sheet
  • HIV

    • For You: If you become infected with HIV, you may have no symptoms for years. Even so, you may infect others–including your baby. Getting tested is the only way to find out if you are infected. If you are HIV positive, you may develop AIDS, which includes a variety of symptoms that take hold once your immune system is weakened by the virus.
    • For Your Baby: Your baby can contract HIV during pregnancy, delivery or from your breast milk. Having a cesarean delivery may decrease the chances of your baby getting HIV. Medications are also available to help prevent the transmission of HIV to your baby. Using these medications can reduce the risk of your baby contracting HIV to less than 2%.** A baby born with HIV usually has no symptoms and frequently problems do not develop until years later.
    • HIV information provided by the Center for Disease Control
  • Genital Herpes

    • For You: The most dangerous situation occurs if you are infected with herpes for the first time during pregnancy, especially near delivery. You may experience premature labor and persistent viral shedding.
    • For Your Baby: Genital Herpes can be passed from a mother to her baby during a vaginal delivery. If you have been previously infected with genital herpes, your system usually develops antibodies which cross the placenta and help protect the baby from infection. In this case, the risk of the baby becoming infected during delivery is very low.
    • Genital Herpes information provided by the Center for Disease Control
  • Genital Warts/HPV

    • For You: Genital warts, caused by HPV, is a virus which can lie latent causing no symptoms for months or years after infection. Pregnant women who carry HPV can experience outbreaks and the papilloma (the warts) can sometimes grow large. If you have HPV, it’s possible for your baby to get it, but this happens very rarely.
    • For Your Baby: Babies who contract the virus, can develop warts on their larynx (voice box), as infants or children–usually by age five.
    • Genital Warts/HPV information provided by the Center for Disease Control

* McClure EM, Goldburg RL. Infection and stillbirth.Semin Fetal Neonatal Med.Aug 2009; 14(4): 182-9.

** Minkooo H. Human immunodeficency virus infection in pregnancy.Obstet Gynecol. Apr 2003; 101(4): 797-810.