Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) often begin silently, or so mildly that few take any notice of them. Unfortunately, untreated STIs often cause serious adverse effects. The seeming innocuousness of STIs may lead people not to seek diagnosis or medical attention for possible STIs until permanent damage has already occurred. As the majority of STIs occur in young people of childbearing age, it is also important to consider the possible effects of STIs in unborn children. This is because many STIs can be easily passed from mother to child during gestation or childbirth.

In this context, it can be tempting to place the burden of responsibility on women for STI prevention and testing. However, STIs can affect anybody, male or female, and can be transmitted from an infected male to a female partner. Therefore, it is also important for men to get tested so that they do not run the risk of transmitting STIs to their female partner(s), especially those who are pregnant.

In order to protect your unborn child, it is important to be tested for STIs, particularly if you engage/have engaged in high risk behaviour, such as:

  • Having unprotected sex
  • Having multiple sex partner
  • Having a sexual relationship with someone who has multiple sex partner
  • Having a history of STIs (because having one STI can make it easier for you to get another STI)

Common STIs which can be passed from mother to child:

  • Chlamydia
  • Gonorrhea
  • Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
  • Syphilis
  • Hepatitis B

Below are some important details about congenital infections with these STDs:

Chlamydia

  • Caused by the bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis
  • Approximately 50% of infants born to infected mothers will also be born with a chlamydia infection
  • Congenital infection can lead to conjunctivitis (inflammation of the eye), which can result in blindness
  • Spontaneous abortion and premature birth are also possible outcomes
  • Transmission of chlamydia from mother to child can be greatly reduced if the diagnosis and treatment are commenced early
  • Chlamydia infection can be cured with antibiotics

Gonorrhea

  • Caused by the bacterium Neisseria gonorrhoeae
  • Can lead to conjunctivitis, possibly resulting in blindness
  • Spontaneous abortion is another possible outcome
  • Gonorrhea can be cured with antibiotics, and mother-to-child transmission is also greatly reduced if diagnosis and treatment are commenced early

HIV infection

  • Caused by the human immunodeficiency virus
  • Untreated congenital infection leads to the development of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), as with acquired infections (infections resulting from sexual intercourse)
  • AIDS is caused by the gradual destruction of the immune system by HIV
  • Infected people eventually become unable to fight off infection, to the point when even normally benign microorganisms can cause life-threatening diseases
  • Likelihood of developing cancer is also higher
  • No cure for HIV exists yet, but the disease can be controlled with antiretroviral medication
  • Antiretroviral medication can also dramatically reduce the transmission of infection from mother to child, when started early

Syphilis

  • Caused by the bacterium Treponema pallidum
  • Congenital syphilis may not present any symptoms initially, although symptoms can develop, given time
  • Early congenital syphilis occurs in children aged between 0 to 2 years old, and can manifest in several ways, such as premature birth, low birth weight, jaundice, and even death shortly after birth
  • Rhinitis, involving a heavy – and occasionally bloody discharge from the nose – is also often present
  • Late congenital syphilis (occurs in children aged 2 years and above) manifests in a series of developmental abnormalities, such as saddle nose (when the bridge of the nose is absent), deafness, and Hutchinson’s teeth
  • Congenital neurosyphilis may also result in mental retardation
  • Syphilis can be treated with antibiotics, and its transmission can also be avoided with treatment

Hepatitis B

  • Caused by the hepatitis B virus
  • Infection takes place in two stages: acute and chronic
  • Chronic infection can lead to cirrhosis (scarring of the liver), which also increases the risk of developing liver cancer
  • Children who have acquired the infection from their mothers are at a much higher risk of developing chronic infection compared to those who acquired it as adults • They are therefore more likely to suffer from the ill effects of chronic hepatitis B infection
  • No cure exists for hepatitis B, but the disease can be controlled with antiviral medication

Early detection and diagnosis is essential to protect yourself and your unborn children from the severe consequences of STIs. Detection is quick and easy using our range of STD Rapid Test Kits, which have been tested by certified laboratories worldwide. These kits detect various antibodies or antigens (depending on the infection), and provide a reliable and accurate (clinical accuracy of >98%) result in 15 minutes. They have been awarded the ISO13485 and GMP (Good Manufacturing Practice) certifications, and are safe and easy to use. We also use discretion in shipping and billing, for your peace of mind.