When the time comes to start the exciting preparations for your new baby, it’s good to also remember to take care of your health. At Pickles & Ice Cream, we want to make sure you are given the necessary information on how to protect yourself and your baby from infections like STIs.
What is an STI?
Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs), also called sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), are infections caused by bacteria, parasites, or a virus shared through sexual contact.
Types of STIs
There are many types of STIs. But the most common are the following:
- Human Immune Deficiency (HIV) is a virus that could lead to Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) if not treated. This virus attacks blood cells that help the body fight diseases.
- Chlamydia is the most common STI in the U.S. Most chlamydia infections do not always come with symptoms. However, women with the disease reported having itching or burning with urination, unusual vaginal bleeding, and bleeding from the vagina after having sex.
- Gonorrhea is another common STI in the U.S. It is given to the baby from the mother during delivery when the baby passes the birth canal.
- Trichomoniasis is another common STI. According to the CDC, in women, the infection is found in the lower genital tract. Symptoms of the infection often differ in men and women. Males can experience genital irritation, discharge, or burning. While females often experience discomfort when peeing, vaginal discharge, or discomfort of the genitals.
- Syphilis is a bacterial infection that can be transferred to the baby if the mother is infected.
How do STIs Pass from Mother to Baby?
Some STIs, such as syphilis, can cross the placenta and infect the baby in the womb. Others can also be passed through the birth canal. These include gonorrhea, chlamydia, hepatitis B, and genital herpes. During pregnancy, HIV can infect the baby during delivery after crossing the placenta.
What are Common Symptoms?
Everyone should be made aware of STIs to recognize the symptoms during pregnancy. Doing so will help protect both you and your baby. Therefore, getting tested if there’s a possibility of infection is highly recommended. However, according to statistics, 1 in 5 people in the U.S. have an STI but are unaware because they have no symptoms in the beginning. This is why it’s a good idea to get tested if there’s a possibility of infection.
Someone with an STI likely experiences the following symptoms:
- Bumps, sores, or warts near the mouth, anus, penis, or vagina
- Swelling or redness near the penis or vagina
- Painful urination
- Skin rash
- Pain during sexual intercourse
- Severe itching near the penis or vagina
- While vaginal discharge is normal, dark yellow or green discharge from the penis or vagina with or without odor could indicate an STI.
Getting Tested Throughout Pregnancy
If you are pregnant or are trying to become pregnant, it’s a good idea to get tested for STIs. Taking this step can prevent your condition from progressing for you and your baby if you are infected. If you become infected, your sexual partner(s) should be made aware so they can also get tested and protect themselves. While the testing for STIs depends on the type of infection, the tests often involve retrieving a urine sample, blood test, swab, or physical examination.
Can You Breastfeed with an STI?
While some STIs affect a mother’s ability to breastfeed her baby, others do not. For example:
- If you were infected with HIV, breastfeeding is NOT suggested. However, baby formula is an alternative to ensure your baby gets the necessary nutrients.
- If you were diagnosed with trichomoniasis and are taking your prescribed antibiotic, you CAN breastfeed your baby. Although you can breastfeed if diagnosed with Trichomoniasis, it’s necessary to consult with your doctor to discuss your condition. This includes waiting between taking your medications and breastfeeding. Although you can breastfeed with Trichomoniasis, it’s important to consult with your doctor to discuss your condition. This includes breastfeeding your baby and the waiting period between taking medication and breastfeeding.
- You CAN breastfeed your baby if infected with syphilis or herpes. However, your baby or pumping equipment must not touch your sores. Avoiding contact with the sores can help the healing process move along.
Reducing the Risk of STIs During Pregnancy
There are several ways to reduce becoming infected with an STI during your pregnancy. These include:
- Properly using latex condoms during sex
- Avoid engaging in oral, vaginal, or anal sex
- Being in a monogamous relationship with a romantic partner who has tested negative for an STI
- Avoid engaging in sexual intercourse with multiple partners
Getting Treated for an STI During Pregnancy
If you are pregnant and have been diagnosed with an STI, there are treatment options to protect you and your baby. These options depend on whether your STI was caused by a virus or bacteria. For example, certain STIs are cured with antibiotic medications. Others can help reduce symptoms and reduce your chances of passing the virus along to your baby.
Caring for Yourself and Your Baby
If you have been or believe you were infected with an STI during your pregnancy, it’s important to notice possible symptoms and take precautions to protect you and your baby’s health. While every person is different, speak to a doctor you trust about the recommended steps needed to ensure you and your baby remain healthy!