Congenital 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:
- Protect yourself first. Either don’t have sex or have safe sex by using a condom or other barrier method.
- Go to all your prenatal care checkups; your provider will test you for syphilis.
- 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.
- 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.