Syphilis is a serious STD that can be passed on to a baby during pregnancy. Syphilis comes from having sex with an infected individual, usually from anal, vaginal, or oral sex. The disease itself is transmitted from the syphilis sore, and those can found on the outside genitals, or in the anus, rectum, or vagina. They can be found orally on the lips, and in the mouth. If this disease is left untreated, it can cause organ damage to the heart, brain, nerves, and many other organ systems. This disease is diagnosed in less than 1,000 pregnant women every year and can have serious consequences for the baby.
What are the consequences for the fetus?
Syphilis affects a baby's body organs too. 2 out of 5 babies born with syphilis while in the womb will die before, or after, birth. It can cause premature birth before 37. Like adults, a baby born with syphilis will have organ complications, including hearing loss, blindness, problems with bones and teeth, and possibly brain damage.
Syphilis can also cause a pregnant woman to miscarry, give birth to a stillborn, along with abnormalities. If syphilis is passed on after birth, newborns don't have symptoms and have to be tested and treated.
What are its symptoms?
Syphilis begins with a small, hard, sore called a chancre that normally begins in the vaginal or genital area. It is painless to the touch and lasts for several weeks to several months. Later, it develops into a rash that may be accompanied by a fever. Note that this rash is not itchy! When the rash goes away, the bacteria go dormant. Months, if not years later, syphilis returns with a vengeance and can cause organ damage if you're not careful. You will need a blood test for syphilis at your initial prenatal exams to make sure that you don't have it.
How is it treated?
You will receive the antibiotic penicillin to kill it. Penicillin is a very common antibiotic. Antibiotics can kill bacterial infections like syphilis. If you've been diagnosed with syphilis for less than one year, you can do with one shot of penicillin to make it go away. If the infection has been around for more than a year, then you'll need more than one shot of penicillin. Your baby is a lot less likely to catch disease too if you get treatment before you have been 26 weeks pregnant. If you suspect yourself of having this disease, you will want to either tell your doctor or go to a clinic right away.
How I protect myself from syphilis?
Syphilis is easily preventable. You will want to get tested, and if you are diagnosed, get it treated as soon as possible. Avoiding having sex is another effective way to stay away from all STDs, including syphilis. If you decide not to stay abstinent and to have sex, make sure to stick with one sex partner. Don't have more than one girlfriend or boyfriend. Always use a condom. Get tested for STDs together at your local clinic.