STDs and pregnancy: Get the facts

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), also known as sexually transmitted infections (STIs). 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. Be sure to tell your doctor if you have symptoms or have engaged in high-risk sexual activity. It's possible to have an STI without symptoms.

How can an STI during pregnancy affect your baby?

STIs during pregnancy can cause many complications. For example:

  • HIV. Pregnant women can pass HIV to their babies during pregnancy, labor and vaginal 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. The greatest risk of transmission occurs when pregnant women become infected close to delivery. Transmission can be prevented if at-risk infants are treated shortly after birth.
  • Chlamydia. Chlamydia during pregnancy has been linked to preterm labor, premature rupture of the membranes and low birth weight. Chlamydia can be passed from women to their babies during a vaginal delivery. If diagnosed during pregnancy, chlamydia can be successfully treated with an antibiotic.
  • Syphilis. Syphilis during pregnancy has been linked to premature birth, stillbirth and, in some cases, death after birth. Untreated infants have a high risk of complications involving multiple organs.
  • Gonorrhea. Untreated gonorrhea during pregnancy has been linked to premature birth, premature rupture of the membranes and low birth weight. Gonorrhea can be passed to the baby during vaginal 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 to the baby during pregnancy.

Other effects of an STI on your baby can include:

  • Eye infection
  • Pneumonia
  • Blood infection
  • Brain damage
  • Blindness
  • Deafness
  • Chronic liver disease
Jan. 31, 2018 See more In-depth