When you’re pregnant, it’s important more than ever to take good care of your body. You’re providing the environment for your baby to develop, and it’s your responsibility to eat well, drink lots of water, abstain from drugs and alcohol, arm yourself against infections, and follow appropriate dietary restrictions.
One aspect of pregnant womens’ health that can sometimes get overlooked, however, is their sexual health. Pregnant women can get STDs or experience an inflammation of a previous STD, and the results can be life-threatening for both the pregnant mother and her child.
Sexual Health, STDs, & Pregnancy
STDs can cause complications before, during, and after pregnancy, leading to lasting effects on not only the mother, but her unborn child. Some issues manifest at birth while others aren’t revealed until even years later. Different STDs have different affects during pregnancy — get the details below.
Since chlamydia is the most common STD in the United States, pregnant women should take note of how contracting the disease can affect their child. Not only can it cause low birth weight, but it can also lead to early labor. In addition, as the baby travels through the birth canal it can be exposed to the STD, resulting in damaging lung and eye infections.
Another common STD, when left untreated in pregnant women gonorrhea can lead to miscarriage, premature birth, low birth weight, and infection of the amniotic fluid. Like chlamydia, gonorrhea can also be transferred to a child during delivery, leading to eye infections.
This STD causes a liver infection which can be passed to an unborn child during pregnancy. The risk of infection transfer depends on when the mother is infected, with the greatest risk occurring closest to delivery. Once infected, newborns have a 90% risk of being lifelong hepatitis B virus carriers. This can lead to chronic liver disease (which claims 1 in 4 infected infants) or even liver cancer in later life.
There are two types of herpes simplex virus — HSV-1 and HSV-2 — and the second is behind most newborn infections. Newborns can become infected in utero, but 80-90% are infected during birth. HSV infection is particularly damaging when the mother’s first outbreak takes place later in pregnancy, especially when it is a first-time infection — this is because the woman’s body does not have adequate time to develop antibodies to fight off the virus. Because of the potentially fatal effects of herpes on newborns, Cesarean section is recommended for all pregnant women with active genital herpes.
Since it can eventually lead to potentially fatal acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), it’s important for pregnant women and their healthcare providers to test for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). HIV can be transmitted to a child during pregnancy and delivery, and even during breastfeeding. But proper diagnosis and treatment of HIV before or during pregnancy can lower the transmission risk to less than 2%.
Human Papillomavirus (HPV)
Human papillomavirus, or HPV, can lead to complications during and after birth. The cauliflower-like clumps of genital warts caused by HPV can actually block a mother’s birth canal, making Cesarean section a necessity. If vaginal birth is possible, the mother can transmit HPV to the child and potential cause non-cancerous growths in the child’s larynx.
Syphilis can be transmitted during pregnancy and cause premature birth, stillbirth, or even infant fatality soon after birth. If the infected baby does survive, they can experience problems in their skin, heart, brain, ears, eyes, and bones.
A fairly common STD, trichomoniasis can cause preterm labor, premature rupture of uterus membranes, and low birth weight. Female newborns can even get infected during birth and experience vaginal discharge.
Pregnant Women, Get Tested for STDs Today.
Experts like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention agree that STD testing throughout pregnancy is a must, because a woman’s sexual health has a huge impact on her child’s health. By getting screened for STDs in the first and third trimesters, pregnant women can most effectively combat the serious complications caused by STDs.
For quick and confidential STD testing, pregnant women can rely on their local ARCpoint Labs. Our nationwide walk-in facilities provide comprehensive STD screening, including many of the above STDs. Find STD screening at the ARCpoint location near you, and take stock of your sexual health today!