STDs and Pregnancy

Which STDs can be passed to my child during pregnancy?

HPV, syphilis and hepatitis C can pass from a mother to her child during pregnancy, but this is very rare with HPV. Syphilis is more commonly transmitted during pregnancy, but treating the infection prevents transmission in 98% of cases. Hepatitis C is transmitted to the infant in 4-7% of pregnancies involving HCV-positive women. There is no way to reduce this number or treat to prevent transmission. Women who know they are HC-positive can use antiviral treatment before pregnancy to reduce the chances of transmission, but not during pregnancy.

Which STDs can be passed to my child during delivery?

If a sexually transmitted infection can be passed to your child it will most likely happen during delivery. Gonorrhea, chlamydia and trichomoniasis can be treated safely during pregnancy to prevent transmission during delivery. It is rare for untreated trichomoniasis to be transmitted to an infant and it can be treated easily after birth.

HIV and genital herpes can both be transmitted to a child during vaginal delivery, but neither is curable with treatment. If an HIV-positive mother has a high viral load during pregnancy, doctors will typically recommend having a C-section two weeks before the due date for the safety of the child. Genital herpes is contagious during viral shedding and is most likely to be transmitted if it is contracted late in pregnancy. C-section is recommended for women who are known to be shedding the virus at the time of delivery.

Which STDs can be passed to my child through breastfeeding?

The only sexually transmitted infections that can be given to a child during breastfeeding are HIV and hepatitis C. The CDC recommends completely avoiding breastfeeding if you are HIV-positive. Hepatitis C is only transmitted via blood, so breastfeeding is relatively safe unless you have dry or cracked nipples that could expose the infant to infected blood. Avoid breastfeeding with hepatitis C if your child may come into contact with blood.

Which STDs cause premature delivery?

Trichomoniasis, syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia and bacterial vaginosis have all been identified as causes of preterm delivery. Children of mothers with trich are commonly born at an abnormally low birthweight. Genital herpes is known to cause both early delivery and miscarriage in infected women. Mycoplasma genitalium (or Mgen) may be a cause of preterm delivery, but very little research has been done on the impact of Mgen on pregnancy.

Which STDs cause stillbirth?

Gonorrhea and chlamydia infections during pregnancy increase the risk of having a stillbirth, but less than 1% of cases result in stillbirth. Untreated syphilis will cause stillbirth in 40% of untreated cases, but can be prevented in almost every case by treatment before 28 weeks gestation.

Which STDs could prevent me from having children?

Trichomoniasis, gonorrhea and chlamydia are all known causes of pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). Over time, PID leads to ectopic pregnancy and infertility in women. Bacterial vaginosis and mycoplasma genitalium are often found in women with PID, but have not been identified as a causes of PID.

Will my STD treatment impact my child during pregnancy?

HPV, HIV, chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, bacterial vaginosis, mycoplasma genitalium, genital herpes and trichomoniasis treatments are highly recommended during pregnancy and will not have adverse impacts on the infant.

Hepatitis C treatment is not safe for infants and should not be administered during pregnancy. If possible, women with Hepatitis C should undergo antiviral therapy before considering pregnancy to reduce the risk of transmission during pregnancy.

How do I know if my child has contracted an STD during pregnancy or delivery?

Children of women with syphilis infections should be tested for syphilis immediately after birth as they are not likely to show symptoms. Infants at risk for genital herpes should be tested for neonatal herpes immediately after birth. Children of women with gonorrhea often display symptoms within 2-5 days of birth and should be treated when symptoms appear.

Children of women with hepatitis C should be tested for the virus after 18 months. It is not possible to obtain accurate test results before this time as the child will still have anti-HCV from the mother.

Can treatment prevent STD transmission to my child?

With the exception of hepatitis C, treatment can totally prevent or at least significantly decrease the risk of transmission to an infant. If you are pregnant and at risk for sexually transmitted infections, consult your doctor about screening and treatment.

How will my STD impact my child if transmission occurs?

Infant syphilis infections can cause developmental issues, seizures and death. Trichomoniasis infection can cause intellectual disability in children. Gonorrhea may result in blindness, infections of the joints and blood infections that can be fatal without prompt treatment. Genital herpes causes neonatal herpes and can also be fatal without immediate treatment. Chlamydia in children causes conjunctivitis and pneumonia.