How STD Complications Affect Babies

Some sexually transmitted diseases have long-term negative effects. These diseases pose serious health issues on the life of a baby whose mother had/has an untreated disease that was contracted sexually. It is every home's wish to raise babies that are healthy and are without deformities.

In almost every case, STDs contribute to neonatal morbidity that leaves parents with everlasting imprints of guilt. The many reasons for being STD-aware go beyond the sphere of immediate consequences on the infected person; part of the vital reasons is to ensure that the consequences do not also affect areas and entities that could bear lifelong results of STD complications.

The complications arising from the late detection of a dangerous STD, or from leaving it untreated during pregnancy, take their toll on unborn babies. For babies who survive the ordeal, such implications follow them into the world with abnormalities and deformities. Below are some complications of STDs on babies according to the specific STD suffered by their mothers during pregnancy.

Babies and Chlamydia

It is troubling to know that not less than 50% of babies whose mothers had untreated Chlamydia while carrying them in pregnancy suffer from chlamydial conjunctivitis. This kind of conjunctivitis presents with watery discharge from the eyes.

Not only that; Chlamydia trachomatis, which is the organism that causes Chlamydia, can spread to the upper part of the baby’s pharynx to bring about pneumonia, a respiratory tract infection. Sometimes, an infected baby could be suffering from both chlamydial conjunctivitis and pneumonia.

Babies can get infected with Chlamydia when they are being given birth to, as they pass through their mothers’ birth canal (the vagina). This is so because the fluids present in the vagina are already carrying large doses of the Chlamydia trachomatis which the babies become exposed to during birth.

Babies and Gonorrhea

Babies infected with Gonorrhea suffer from gonococcal ophthalmic neonatorum, a form of eye infection that can progress to blindness in infected babies. Neisseria gonorrhea, the bacterium that causes Gonorrhea, makes its way to a baby’s eyes, most often as the baby is being birthed; it then attaches itself to the cells of the conjunctiva of the eyes.

From there, the bacterium can penetrate into the cells of the conjunctiva to multiply and cause the conjunctiva to become swollen as the baby’s immunity combats with the bacterium.

In certain cases reported, the N. gonorrhea has evolved tactics to escape and manoeuvre the baby’s immune response to it, and this makes it possible to increase its area of operation, including getting into the baby’s blood to infect it (bacteremia), or spreading to the brain or spinal cord to bring about meningitis.

Babies and Syphilis

Many babies whose mothers have syphilis do not make it out alive. Those that survive the pregnancy eventually get infected with syphilis during their birth. A baby may appear to be normal and healthy but after a time, the symptoms of the infection may start showing. The syphilis bacterium, Treponema pallidum, brings to babies what is medically called congenital syphilis. Common problems that come with congenital syphilis include:

  • Low red blood count or a poor ability of the blood to carry oxygen (anemia)
  • Jaundice, leading to the pigmentation of the skin and whites of the eyes
  • Enlarged liver
  • Enlarged spleen
  • Rashes and fever
  • Developmental delays
  • Seizure, as a result of an abnormality in the activity of the brain nerves.

Babies and Genital Herpes

Women who contract genital herpes late in their pregnancies are at a very high risk of infecting their babies with the herpes simplex virus because their immune systems have not formed antibodies that should pass on to the babies to protect them from the virus during birthing.

The virus can get into their mouths, eyes, lungs, liver, brain, and spinal cord. Infected babies develop problems associated with neonatal herpes which can damage the baby’s brains and spinal cords. These babies could be mentally retarded as a result of the damages on the brain.

Babies and HIV

HIV cannot be cured, but it can be managed. An HIV-positive mother can prevent her baby from getting the virus if she’s tested early, and is adhering to the treatment. A baby can get infected during pregnancy, during birth, or through breastfeeding. Complications from HIV in babies can result in enlarged lymph nodes, repeated thrush in the mouth, problems with the brain and spinal cord, as well as pneumonia, amongst others. These are in addition to the baby living with HIV, for life.


Being aware of the harms caused by STDs, getting tested, and getting it done at the right time gives you ‘STD-awareness.’ The next thing to do is to get treated if you tested positive. Those are the best ways to save your baby from life-threatening problems if and when you get pregnant.