STDs or Sexually Transmitted Diseases are infections that spread by having intercourse with someone who already has STD. Sexual activities can make an individual catch sexually transmitted diseases that involve the anus, vagina or mouth.
Sexually transmitted diseases are serious illnesses that require immediate treatment, regardless of whether you are expecting or not. Nevertheless, if you are an expecting mother, you are not the only one at risk here; most of the STDs can be extremely harmful to you and even to your baby. Some of the STDs such as HIV/AIDs are not curable and may be fatal.
Once you find any of the STD symptoms during pregnancy, make sure to visit a physician immediately. Your healthcare provider will be screening you for some of the most common STDs at your first prenatal visit, but if you have had sex with someone who may already have an STD, you need to be screened at subsequent appointments and treated accordingly. If you find that you have been exposed to an STD, make sure to consult your doctor immediately. Timely treatment is the best approach to not only protect yourself but your baby as well.
What Diseases Are Caused Because of STDs?
- Genital warts
What Are The Signs/Symptoms of STDs?
STDs, oftentimes, show no symptoms even when they are present in the body. They may be evident but may be overlooked as normal symptoms. Sometimes, STD symptoms are very much visible, the prominent signs can be:
- Warts, sores, or bumps near the vagina, penis, anus, or mouth
- Redness or swelling near the vagina or penis
- Skin rash with or even without pain on different parts of the body
- Painful and frequent urination
- Loose stool, weight loss, night sweats
- Fever, pains, body aches, and chills
- Yellowing of the skin – which is usually regarded as jaundice
- Discharge from the vagina or penis with bad odor
- Vaginal bleeding other than the monthly periods
- Painful sex
- Severe itching near the vagina or penis
What Do Pregnant Women Need To Know About Sexually Transmitted Diseases
It is imperative for you to know about the health risks you are being posed to by the STDs during pregnancy and get the possible treatments as quickly as possible.
Pregnant women can be at high risk of catching sexually transmitted diseases, which are also called as the sexually transmitted Infections – The STIs. If you are expecting a child, there are some vital aspects that you need to know about different sexually transmitted infections.
Do You Need To Be Screened For An STD During Pregnancy?
An STD during pregnancy can pose serious health issues not only for you but also for your baby. Therefore, screening for STDs, such as syphilis, Chlamydia, hepatitis B, and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) generally takes place at the very first prenatal visit for all expecting mothers. Hepatitis C and gonorrhea screenings are recommended at least once during the pregnancy term for all those women who are at high risk of catching these sexually transmitted infections.
Even if you have been screened for an STD in the past, getting screed during pregnancy is crucial. Be certain to tell your physician if you have any signs or have already been engaged in a high-risk sexual activity. It perhaps be possible that you have an STD without any apparent symptoms.
How Can An STD During Pregnancy Affect Your Fetus?
STD during pregnancy can lead to numerous complications to not only you but your unborn baby too. For instance:
- HIV – Pregnancy women can transmit HIV to their unborn child during pregnancy, labor, vaginal delivery, or even via breastfeeding. On the other hand, if HIV has been diagnosed before or earlier during the pregnancy term, vital steps can be taken to reduce the risk of HIV transmission.
- Chlamydia – Catching Chlamydia STD during pregnancy has been associated with premature labor, early rupture of the membranes, and even low birth weight. This STD can be transmitted from the women to their child during vaginal delivery. If a pregnant woman has been diagnosed with Chlamydia during pregnancy, the STI can be effectively treated with an antibiotic.
- Hepatitis – The greatest transmission risk occurs when a pregnant woman gets infected with Hepatitis B close to delivery. This STD transmission can be easily prevented if at-risk infants are treated right after birth.
- Gonorrhea – if gonorrhea is left untreated, especially during pregnancy could lead to premature rupture of the membranes, premature birth, and even low birth weight. Gonorrhea can be transmitted to the baby during vaginal delivery.
- Hepatitis C - Research indicates that hepatitis C STD during pregnancy increases the risk of premature birth, low birth weight and small size for gestational age. This liver infection can be further passed onto the child during pregnancy.
- Syphilis – Syphilis during pregnancy has been generally linked to still or premature birth, and in some cases, death right after birth. Untreated children’s have a high risk of complications that involve multiple organs.
- Herpes – Having the effects of herpes in a pregnant woman is fairly safe until she goes into labor. Active herpes lesions on the genitals turn out to be extremely contagious and can infect the child as they are born. Moreover, the virus may start to multiply and become infections before any symptoms show up. Therefore, it is vital for an expecting mother to opt for a C-section to prevent passing herpes to the newborn.
- Trichomoniasis – This infection causes a yellowish-green vaginal discharge along with painful sex or while urination. It increases the risk of having a preterm child. Rarely, the newborn can catch the infection during the delivery and can have vaginal discharge right after birth. Make sure to get screened for this STI within three months of being treated to ensure the infection has gone away.
- HPV – This is a common STI. Genital warts usually appear as small cauliflower-like clusters which may itch or burn a lot. If you contract HPV during pregnancy, your treatment perhaps gets delayed until you deliver your child. Oftentimes, pregnancy hormones can make these warts grown larger. If they grow large enough, eventually blocking the birth canal, the child perhaps needs to be delivered by a C-section.
Some other effects of an STD on your infant can include:
- Eye infection
- Chronic liver disease
- Brain damage
- Blood infection
How To Treat STDs During Pregnancy?
STDs like syphilis, gonorrhea, and Chlamydia can be treated and cured with antibiotics during pregnancy. STDs caused by viruses such as HIV, hepatitis B, and C, just cannot be cured.
In some of the cases, antiviral medications can be used to aid reduce the risk of passing on the viral infection to the fetus. If the mother is suffering from HIV, she perhaps needs to deliver the baby by C-section, as vaginal delivery could pass on HIV to the child.
What Can Be Done To Prevent An STD?
There are several different ways an expecting mother can adopt that can greatly help reduce the risk of STDs.
- Abstain from sex – this is one of the most effective approaches to avoid catching an STD
- Ensure to keep your sexual activities with an uninfected partner - Make sure to have sex only with a monogamous long-term partner who is not infected of any STD even now or ever before.
- Wait and authenticate – make sure to avoid anal and vaginal sex with new partners until you both have been tested for STDs. Oral sex, on the other hand, is less risky, but using a latex condom or even dental dam – which is a square, thin piece of rubber made with silicone or latex – that helps prevent direct contact between the genital and oral mucous membranes.
- Use dental dams and condoms correctly and consistently – Use a dental dam or a new latex condom for every sexual activity, whether it is vaginal, oral or anal. Do not opt for an oil-based lubricant like petroleum jelly, with a dental dam or latex condom. Condoms that are made using natural membranes are not recommended at all as they are not much effective in preventing STDs.
- Make sure to choose a partner with the utmost care. Do not have intercourse with someone whom you suspect may be suffering from an STI or someone who has multiple sexual partners.
- Do no resume having intercourse unless your doctor says it is okay for you to continue it
- Return to your doctor to get yourself retested
- Make sure your partner or if you have multiple partners get treated for STDs if they have any.
It is, therefore, crucial to be aware of the fact is if or not you have any of these STIs, so that you can keep not only yourself but also your baby secure, protected, and healthy. The quicker you are being able to treat any of these STIs, the better off you and your child will be.