Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are the result of infections acquired through unprotected vaginal, anal, or oral sex. Anybody can get or spread an STD, regardless of their age or gender. Symptoms of STDs vary and may take a while to appear. Some teenagers or adults are entirely asymptomatic. Diagnosis in these cases is almost impossible to make without testing. Data and guidelines on STDs are different according to each social minority. For example, men who have sex with men (MSM) have to screen and get tested more often on average, when compared with heterosexual men. Other factors come to play a role and create additional high-risk groups, such as non-monogamous people or adults with multiple partners. Another unique category of people regarding STDs management concerns pregnant women.
What is an STD, and what does it do to the body?
An STD is a sexually acquired infection that anyone can get through unprotected oral, vaginal, or anal sex. They can be of viral, bacterial, or parasitic etiology and may lead to life-threatening complications if left untreated. STDs require immediate care and treatment not only in pregnant women but in the whole population. However, being pregnant and having a sexually transmitted infection (STI) might put in danger both you and your unborn child. Some examples of STDs are herpes, HIV/AIDS, genital warts, hepatitis B, chlamydia, syphilis, gonorrhea, and trichomoniasis. Some of the most common general symptoms and signs of STDs are the following:
- Vaginal or penile discharge
- Pain or burning sensation upon urination
- Skin rash
- Sores or bumps in or around the genitals
- Unexplained vaginal bleeding
- Painful sex
- Genitals itchiness
Can you get an STD while being pregnant?
You can always get an STD as long as you are alive and sexually active. Being pregnant doesn't mean you cannot acquire an STI. If you are in any stage of your pregnancy and you practice unprotected sex, you might get an STD at any time. Your pregnancy does not protect you in any way from STIs. The most challenging fact about STDs is that most of them have a silent presentation with a few or no symptoms at all. Also, common STDs such as chlamydia, an otherwise easy-to-treat infection, could be life-threatening for the baby or lead to irreversible complications. It is imperative to get tested before but also during your pregnancy. If you are positive for any STD, your partner should get tested too.
Do you need to get tested for STDs during pregnancy?
You need to get tested for STDs during and before your pregnancy, especially if you are sexually active or you engage in unprotected sex. Keep in mind that an untreated STD might lead to very severe complications for you and your baby. The first prenatal visit for all pregnant women includes testing for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), hepatitis B, chlamydia, and syphilis. Doctors suggest screening for gonorrhea and hepatitis C at least once during pregnancy.
How can an STD affect or harm you and your baby?
STDs can affect your baby in many ways. One significant aspect of the outcome and potential infection is the timing of transmission. For example, regarding hepatitis B, the highest risk is when a woman gets infected close to delivery. The likelihood of transmission is high unless the baby receives immediate treatment after birth. Also, a baby can acquire HIV during pregnancy, labor, or breast-feeding. However, if a woman gets diagnosed early enough, the infection might be preventable with the appropriate measures. Chlamydia can cause preterm labor, premature rupture of the membranes to a pregnant woman. A baby of a mother with chlamydia might have a low birth weight. The infection is easily treatable with antibiotics, some of which women can receive during pregnancy. Untreated syphilis might lead to life-threatening complications in babies and mothers. Death after birth is also possible. In general, most STDs increase the risk of premature birth, low birth weight, and rupture of the membranes. The following are some common complications that a baby might present with when having a mother with an STD:
- Eye or blood infection
- Damage in the brain or liver
- Blindness or deafness
Treating an STD while being pregnant
When a mother transmits a bacterial STD to a baby, such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, or syphilis, treatment is with antibiotics. Effective therapy requires early identification and intervention. Viral STDs, such as hepatitis B or C, and HIV do not have a cure. However, doctors might prevent transmission through early and intensive interventions, including antiviral medication. Another preventive measure is the method of delivery. For example, a woman with HIV might need to deliver with a C-section. In general, if you plan to become pregnant or if you already are, you should get tested for STDs. You can do that with an STD rapid kit test at home.
Do you need a specific STD test if you're pregnant?
No, you don't. If you plan to be pregnant or if you are at your early stages of pregnancy and want to get tested for an STD, you need a regular one that applies to everyone. STD rapid kit tests are the same for all ages, regardless of whether you are pregnant or not. Just follow the instructions written in every full package, and you will have your results in less than twenty minutes.
How to prevent getting an STD during pregnancy
If you are pregnant, you could take several steps to minimize the possibility of acquiring an STD. Prevention of an STI during pregnancy does not always mean abstaining from sex. However, the most effective measure against getting an STDs is to abstain from sex. If you regularly have sex while being pregnant, make sure your partner is uninfected and monogamous, without multiple partners.
If you get a new partner while being pregnant, make sure you wait until both of you get tested for STDs. If, however, you practice oral sex, make sure you do it with a condom or other forms of protection. Finally, use protection correctly and effectively. For example, use a new condom every time you plan to have vaginal, oral, or anal sex. Also, avoid using oil-based lubricants with latex condoms or dental dams.