Posts Tagged ‘STI’

Prevent syphilis in your baby

Monday, May 8th, 2017

doctorCongenital syphilis (present at birth) can cause serious lifelong health conditions, or even death, for a baby. Unfortunately, the number of congenital syphilis cases in the United States increased 46 percent between 2012 and 2015.

Syphilis is a sexually transmitted disease (STD), also known as a sexually transmitted infection (STI). You can get it by having unprotected sex with someone who is infected with syphilis. You can also get it by having direct contact with an infected person’s syphilis sore which may be on a person’s lips, in their mouth or on their genitals.

If a woman has syphilis and gets pregnant, she needs to be treated for syphilis. If she doesn’t receive treatment, syphilis can pass to her baby.

The good news is that congenital syphilis is preventable:

  1. Protect yourself first. Either don’t have sex or have safe sex by using a condom or other barrier method.
  2. Go to all your prenatal care checkups; your provider will test you for syphilis.
  3. If you have syphilis, your provider will begin treatment. The sooner you receive treatment, the less likely you and your baby may have complications from the infection.
  4. Ask your partner to be tested (and treated) for syphilis, so that you don’t get infected or re-infected.

If you’re not sure whether you have syphilis, or think you may have been exposed to it, contact your healthcare provider.

See our article for more details about protecting yourself and your baby from syphilis. Our article includes diagnosis and treatment information, too.

If you have questions, text or email AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

STDs can be harmful to you and your baby

Friday, April 8th, 2016

Pregnant woman talking with doctorSexually transmitted diseases (STDs) can cause problems such as premature birth, ectopic pregnancy, birth defects, miscarriage or stillbirth. Most babies get infected with an STD through the birth canal during labor and birth, but other STDs can cross the placenta and infect your baby in the womb.

What can you do?

April is STD awareness month, and this year the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have come up with three steps to prevent or treat a STD:  Talk, Test and Treat.

Talk

Have a conversation with your sexual partner about the last time you were tested and how you both plan to have safe sex. You should also talk with your healthcare provider about STD testing and to make sure your vaccines are up to date. Certain vaccines, such as the HPV vaccine, can help protect against genital warts.

Life can get busy; if you aren’t sure of the last time you were tested for STDs or if you received a certain vaccine, a visit with your provider is the best time to ask.

Test

Many people with STDs don’t know they’re infected because some STDs have no symptoms. And if you’re pregnant, STDs can be harmful to pregnant women and their babies. See your healthcare provider and get tested.

Treat

If you find out you have an STD, get treatment right away. Receiving treatment can help protect you and your baby during pregnancy and birth.

Don’t wait. Be sure to talk, test and treat to protect your health and that of your baby.

Read our top STD questions answered for lots more info.  

 

What is human papillomavirus, HPV?

Monday, January 14th, 2013

Each year in the United States, about 19 million individuals contract a sexually transmitted infection (STI). Genital warts are a form of the most common STI.

Genital warts are pink, white or gray swellings in the genital area caused by a large group of viruses called human papillomaviruses (HPVs). Some of the viruses also increase the risk of cervical cancer. Genital warts often appear in small, cauliflower-shaped clusters that may itch or burn. About 6.2 million individuals (1 percent of all sexually active adults) in this country become infected each year.

A vaccine against four major types of HPV is now routinely recommended for girls ages 11 to 12 years and girls and women between the ages of 13 and 26 who have not been previously vaccinated. This vaccine can prevent most cases of cervical cancer and genital warts. Pregnant women should not get the vaccine.

Sometimes pregnancy-related hormones cause genital warts to grow. Occasionally, they may grow so large that they block the birth canal, making a cesarean section necessary. Rarely, an infected mother can pass the virus on to her baby, causing warts to grow on the baby’s vocal cords. A cesarean section is not recommended to protect the baby because this complication is rare, and the preventive effectiveness of cesarean delivery is not known.

If the warts grow large or make the woman uncomfortable, they can be safely removed during pregnancy with laser surgery or cryotherapy (freezing). To learn more about HPV, read the CDC’s fact sheet.

January is Cervical Health Awareness Month, sponsored by the National Cervical Cancer Coalition (NCCC) and focused on raising awareness about how women can protect themselves from HPV and cervical cancer. NCCC wants you to make sure you and women in your life receive the HPV vaccine, and are screened regularly with a Pap and HPV test. Ask your healthcare provider about it today.

Hidden dangers of STIs

Friday, March 30th, 2012

If you are pregnant or thinking about getting pregnant, it is very important that you be tested for sexually transmitted infections (STIs), also called sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).  Each year in the United States, about 19 million individuals contract a sexually transmitted infection (STI). STIs are infections a person can get by having sex (genital, oral or anal) with someone who has one of these infections. Many infected individuals do not know they have an STI because some STIs cause no symptoms.

STIs pose special risks for pregnant women and their babies. These infections can cause:
• Miscarriage
• Ectopic pregnancy (when the embryo implants outside of the uterus, usually in a fallopian tube)
• Preterm delivery (before 37 weeks of pregnancy)
• Stillbirth
• Birth defects
• Illness in the newborn period (first month of life)
• Death

If STIs are not diagnosed and treated, they can be passed from the mother to the baby.  Most frequently a baby becomes infected during delivery, while passing through an infected birth canal. But a few of these infections can cross the placenta and infect the baby while the baby is still in utero.  And in many cases the signs and symptoms of STIs are so mild that a woman may not even know that she is infected.

During one of your first prenatal visits, your health care provider will test you for some STIs, such as HIV and syphilis.  Some STIs, such as syphilis, can be cured with drug treatment.  But others, such as HIV, cannot be cured.

However, if a woman does have an STI that cannot be cured, steps usually can be taken to protect her baby.  For instance, a woman with HIV can be started on a group of drugs called antiretrovirals.  The use of these drugs during pregnancy will significantly reduce the chances that her baby will be become infected with HIV. If women take these drugs before and during birth, and their babies are given drugs after birth, HIV transmission is reduced from 25% (with no treatment) to less than 2%.

Your partner should also be tested and treated and you should not have sex until your treatment is complete and your health care provider has said that it is OK.  Make sure that you are honest with your health care provider about your risk factors for STIs.  This will help to ensure that you get the appropriate testing and therefore treatment to protect you and your baby.

For more information about some common STIs you can go to our website.

Updated November 2015.

Trichomoniasis – a nasty condition

Tuesday, October 5th, 2010

Trichomoniasis, affecting both men and women, is, according to the CDC, the most common curable STD (sexually transmitted disease) in young, sexually active women.  “Trich” is caused by the parasite, Trichomonas vaginalis.  Pregnant women with trichomoniasis may have babies who are born early or with low birthweight (less than 5.5 pounds), so it’s important to clear it up as soon as it is diagnosed.

Most men with trichomoniasis do not have signs or symptoms.  Some women do have symptoms of infection which include a frothy, yellow-green vaginal discharge with a strong odor. The infection can cause discomfort during sex and urination, as well as irritation and itching of the genital area.

The genital inflammation caused by trichomoniasis can increase a woman’s susceptibility to HIV infection if she is exposed to the virus. Women infected with Trich have been shown to have a significantly higher rate of pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) than uninfected women.  It also may be a contributor to infertility.

A physical exam and laboratory test are necessary to diagnose trichomoniasis. The parasite is harder to detect in men than in women.  The good news is that Trich usually can be cured with prescription drugs, either metronidazole or tinidazole, given by mouth in a single dose.  (Metronidazole is safe for use by pregnant women.)  Topical creams, gels or ointments, however, do not cure it.

An infected man, even a man who has never had symptoms or whose symptoms have stopped, can continue to infect or re-infect a female partner until he has been treated. So, both partners should be treated at the same time to eliminate the parasite. Anyone being treated for trichomoniasis should avoid sex until they and their sex partners complete treatment and have no symptoms.

Genital herpes and pregnancy

Tuesday, June 22nd, 2010

Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) that can cause serious health problems in infected newborns. Approximately 45 million Americans have genital herpes. Up to 1 million new cases occur each year, including about 1,200 to 1,500 in newborns.

While most women with genital herpes have healthy babies, a small number pass the virus on to their babies during labor and delivery. For this reason, it is especially important for pregnant women to recognize the symptoms of genital herpes and to seek immediate medical treatment if they think they could be infected. Pregnant women should tell their health care provider if they have had herpes in the past, so the provider can take any necessary steps to protect their babies from the infection.

Herpes is caused by herpes simplex viruses (HSVs), which are similar to the viruses that cause chickenpox and shingles. After the initial infection, HSVs can hide within nerve cells, where the body’s immune system cannot reach them. Then, under the right conditions, the viruses can launch new attacks.

Women who acquire genital herpes for the first time near the time of delivery have a 30 to 50 percent chance of passing the infection on to their babies during a vaginal delivery, whether or not they have symptoms. The risk is so high because a newly infected pregnant woman has not yet produced disease-fighting antibodies that could help protect her baby during delivery. Studies suggest that about 2 percent of pregnant women acquire herpes for the first time during pregnancy.

Women who have had herpes before pregnancy and have a flare-up or silent infection at the time of vaginal delivery have only about a 3 percent chance of infecting their babies. Sometimes, what appears to be a first, severe episode of herpes during pregnancy actually can be a flare-up of an old silent infection. These women have a low risk of infecting their babies. Blood tests sometimes can help determine whether a woman has a new infection or a recurrence of an old one.

If a pregnant woman has a history of genital herpes, her health care provider examines her carefully for any signs of infection when she goes into labor. When a woman has an active infection (primary or recurrent) at the time of delivery, her baby usually can be protected from infection by a cesarean delivery. A vaginal delivery is safe for most women with recurrent herpes as long as they don’t have signs of infection at delivery.

To learn more about signs and symptoms, health issues of the newborn and ways to try to prevent herpes transmission, read our fact sheet on genital herpes and pregnancy.

What is chlamydia?

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2009

Chlamydia is a bacterium that causes a sexually transmitted infection (STI). A chlamydial infection contracted before or during pregnancy can be the cause of reproductive problems, so it’s important to clear it up a.s.a.p. About 2.8 million new cases of this infection occur every year in the U. S. in both sexes, making this one of the most common STIs. It occurs most frequently in people under age 25.

Chlamydia usually has no symptoms, although some infected women experience vaginal discharge and burning on urination. Untreated, chlamydia can spread to the upper genital tract (uterus, fallopian tubes and ovaries), resulting in pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), often with a superinfection with other bacteria – so not nice!  And PID can damage a woman’s fallopian tubes and lead to ectopic pregnancy or infertility.

About 10 percent of pregnant women in the United States are infected with chlamydia. Untreated, they face an increased risk of premature rupture of the membranes (PROM) (bag of waters) and preterm delivery. Babies of untreated women often become infected during vaginal delivery, and infected babies can develop eye infections and pneumonia, which require treatment with antibiotics.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all pregnant women be screened for chlamydia infection at the first prenatal visit. Testing is easy and is done on a urine sample or vaginal fluid obtained with a swab. The good news is that chlamydial infection can be cured with antibiotics that prevent complications for mom and baby. It’s important to note that the partner of an infected woman also should be treated, because the infection can be passed back and forth between sexually active couples.

Ectopic pregnancy

Tuesday, September 1st, 2009

crampsIn an ectopic or “out of place” pregnancy, a fertilized egg implants outside of the uterus, usually in the fallopian tube, and begins to grow. When this happens, the birth of a baby is not possible and the woman’s health is threatened.  It can be pretty scary, so familiarize yourself with symptoms.

With an ectopic pregnancy, about 1 week after a missed menstrual period a woman may experience slight, irregular vaginal bleeding that may be brownish in color. Some women mistake this bleeding for a normal menstrual period. The bleeding may be followed by pain in the lower abdomen, often felt mainly on one side.  If you experience this, call your doc right away or go to the emergency room.  Without treatment, these symptoms may be followed in several days or weeks by severe pelvic pain, shoulder pain (due to blood from a ruptured ectopic pregnancy pressing on the diaphragm), faintness, dizziness, nausea or vomiting.

An ectopic pregnancy can be difficult to diagnose, so several tests need to be performed. If the provider finds an ectopic pregnancy, the embryo (which cannot survive) must be removed so that it does not cause the fallopian tube to rupture, resulting in life-threatening internal bleeding. Most ectopic pregnancies are diagnosed in the first 8 weeks of pregnancy, usually before the tube has ruptured.

There are two treatments for ectopic pregnancy: medication (using a drug called methotrexate which stops growth of the pregnancy and saves the fallopian tube. The woman’s body gradually absorbs the pregnancy); and surgery (the provider usually makes a tiny incision in the fallopian tube and removes the embryo, trying to preserve the tube, although sometimes it must be removed). After either of these treatments, the provider monitors the woman for several weeks with blood tests for hCG until levels of the hormone return to zero.

The most significant risk factor for ectopic pregnancy is sexually transmitted infections (STIs), such as chlamydia. For most women, the cause of an ectopic pregnancy is unknown.

Many women who have had an ectopic pregnancy can have healthy pregnancies in the future. Studies suggest that about 50 to 80 percent of women who have had an ectopic pregnancy are able to have a normal pregnancy. Women who have had an ectopic pregnancy have about a 10 percent chance of it happening again, so they need to be monitored carefully when they next attempt to conceive.