STDs and pregnancy: Get the facts

STDs and pregnancy — Know the health risks posed by a sexually transmitted disease during pregnancy and the possible treatments.

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Pregnant women can be affected by sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), or sexually transmitted infections (STIs), too. If you're pregnant, here's what you need to know about sexually transmitted infections.

Do you need to be tested for an STI during pregnancy?

An STI during pregnancy can pose serious health risks for you and your baby. As a result, screening for STIs, such as human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), hepatitis B, chlamydia and syphilis, generally takes place at the first prenatal visit for all pregnant women. Gonorrhea and hepatitis C screening tests are recommended at least once during pregnancy for women at high risk of these infections.

Even if you have been tested for an STI in the past, testing again during pregnancy is important. It's possible to have an STI and not have any symptoms. Also, be sure to tell your doctor if are experiencing any symptoms or have engaged in any high-risk sexual activity.

How can an STI during pregnancy affect your baby?

STIs during pregnancy can cause many complications. For example:

  • HIV. HIV can be passed from a woman to her baby during pregnancy, labor and delivery, or breast-feeding. However, if HIV is diagnosed before or early in pregnancy, steps can be taken to reduce the risk of transmission.
  • Hepatitis B. This type of liver infection can be passed from a woman to her baby during pregnancy. The greatest risk of transmission occurs when a pregnant woman becomes infected close to delivery. Transmission can be prevented if at-risk infants are treated shortly after birth.
  • Chlamydia. Untreated, chlamydia during pregnancy has been linked to preterm labor, premature rupture of the membranes and low birth weight. Chlamydia can be passed from a woman to her baby during delivery.
  • Syphilis. Syphilis during pregnancy has been linked to premature birth, stillbirth and, in some cases, death after birth. Syphilis can be passed from a woman to her baby during pregnancy. Untreated infants might develop problems in multiple organs.
  • Gonorrhea. Untreated, gonorrhea during pregnancy has been linked to miscarriage, premature birth, premature rupture of the membranes and low birth weight. Gonorrhea can be passed from a woman to her baby during delivery.
  • Hepatitis C. Some research suggests that hepatitis C during pregnancy increases the risk of premature birth, small size for gestational age and low birth weight. This type of liver infection can be passed from a woman to her baby during pregnancy.
Jan. 10, 2015 See more In-depth