Part of being a responsible sexual adult includes regular testing for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Nobody intends to get an STD — and you may take every possible step to prevent one — but if you have sex, you’re at risk. In fact, approximately 12 million new cases of STDs (not including HIV infection) are reported every year in the United States.
Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) often have no symptoms at first, or at all, especially if you’re a woman. That’s why we always recommend STD testing at your well-woman exam and STD testing before and during pregnancy.
If you’re pregnant with an STD, you may be afraid that the infection will hurt your baby or that being pregnant would stop you from getting the treatment you need.
At Florida Woman Care of Jacksonville, our expert OB/GYNs Daniel McDyer, MD, FACOG, and Julian Stephen Suhrer, MD assure you that being pregnant with an STD is not uncommon. That’s why we help you understand the risks to you and your baby. We also recommend treatment options that keep you both safe at either of our two offices in Jacksonville, Florida.
Are you pregnant with an STD, or suspect that you might be? Here’s what you need to know.
Some STDs affect your baby in the womb
The worst news is that some sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and STDs can also affect or infect your developing fetus, because they’re transmitted through your blood supply. For instance, both syphilis and HIV can cross the placental barrier.
The earlier you and your baby receive treatment, the better the outcome. Without treatment, your baby is at risk for:
- Early birth
- Low birth weight
- Neonatal sepsis
- Organ damage
- Brain damage
- Acute hepatitis
- Liver disease
- Motor disorders
- Eye infection
Even if your baby is healthy at birth, they may go on to develop complications as they grow in the coming months and years. The good news is that a bacterial infection, such as syphilis, is cured with a course of antibiotics that helps keep you and your baby safe.
If you have an HIV or other viral infection, we recommend antiviral therapy as soon as possible. Although we can’t yet cure HIV or other viral infections, we can manage them to minimize symptoms and delay progression.
Some STDs are passed in childbirth
If you have an STD, vaginal childbirth may not be an option for you. The infection can be transmitted to your baby through the delivery process via bodily fluids or by brushing against active lesions, such as herpes sores. The STDs that may be passed to your baby during vaginal birth include:
- Hepatitis B
- Genital herpes
Instead, we may recommend cesarean delivery (aka a “C section”). You’re sedated during a C section and your baby is delivered through an abdominal incision that goes into your uterus.
Even though you’re sedated, you’re still awake. After your baby is born, you can hold them in your arms.
Some STDs are transmitted through breast milk
If you have an active STD, we don’t recommend that you breastfeed your baby. Instead, we advise using formula until you’re no longer infectious and have been given the OK by your health professionals.
Even if you’re taking antiviral medications for HIV, you shouldn’t breastfeed. With HIV, your baby should be born through C-section and you should nourish them with formula.
A few STDs aren’t transmitted through breast milk. These include:
- Human papillomavirus (HPV)
Others, such as trichomoniasis, require antibiotic therapy and a waiting period. You could nurse your baby or pump your breast milk if you have herpes or syphilis as long as you don’t have any lesions on your breasts.
Get tested … now and later
If you’re already pregnant, please call us to schedule an STD test if you haven’t taken one yet. The sooner you know whether you have an infection, the sooner you and your baby can get the treatment you need. You may also benefit from vaccines, such as the HPV vaccine, to minimize your risk of contracting HPV.
If you haven’t yet become pregnant but are considering it, an STD test is an important first step. We help you clear bacterial infections before your pregnancy, or manage viral ones, to keep your baby safe.
As long as you’re sexually active, you should continue to test for STDs during your pregnancy. It’s better to be overly vigilant than it is to miss an STD that could affect your baby’s health now and in the future.
Get the answers you need about being pregnant with an STD by contacting our supportive team today. Call our Jacksonville, Florida, location nearest you for STD testing, or use our online appointment form.