- You will be tested for STIs and HIV when you go in for a prenatal check-up.
- Early testing and treatment will prevent other problems for you and your baby later on.
- Make sure you are protecting yourself from STIs before, during and after pregnancy!
When you’re pregnant you expect your doctor to recommend a lot of tests, checkups, and screenings to help keep you and your baby healthy. The thought of getting tested for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) probably hasn’t even crossed your mind- but it should. In reality, more than 9 million women are diagnosed with an STI each year and some infections like gonorrhea or chlamydia don’t have any obvious signs or physical symptoms. If left untreated, these infections can cause serious problems for you and your baby. But there is no reason to panic- we’re here to give you the real “scoop” on STIs and HIV during pregnancy.
What Will I Be Tested for While I’m Pregnant?
Screenings for infections like hepatitis B, chlamydia, and syphilis will usually take place during your first prenatal visit. If you’re at higher risk for gonorrhea, or hepatitis C you should expect to be tested for these infections at least once during your pregnancy.
You can also expect to be tested for HIV since timely treatment can improve your health and greatly reduce the chances of giving the virus to your baby.
How Can STIs Affect Me & My Unborn Child?
Here’s the thing, STIs can complicate your pregnancy and seriously affect your health and the health of your developing baby.
STIs during pregnancy can cause:
- A miscarriage
- Ectopic pregnancy
- Preterm labor and delivery
- Low birth weight baby
- Birth defects like blindness, deafness, bone deformities, and intellectual disability
- Illness during the first month of your baby’s life
- Newborn death
What If I Have HIV & I Am Pregnant?
HIV can be passed on to your baby while you are pregnant, at delivery, or during breastfeeding. Getting good medical care during your pregnancy can improve your health and protect the health of your baby.
Your provider will recommend that you take HIV medications during your pregnancy. These medications will increase the likelihood that your baby will not be infected by the virus. If you decide not to take the medicine however, there is a 1 in 4 chance that your baby will become infected with HIV.
Right after birth and for the first six weeks of your baby’s life, they will be given special medicines to further decrease their risk of infection.
How Are STIs Treated During Pregnancy?
Some STIs like chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis can all be easily treated with antibiotics that are safe to take during pregnancy. Sexually transmitted infections caused by viruses, like hepatitis B, or HIV can’t be cured, but oftentimes these infections can be treated with antiviral medications to reduce the risk of passing the infection on to your baby.
What Can Be Done to Protect My Baby After Birth?
It’s also pretty common for most hospitals to treat your baby’s eyes with an antibiotic ointment after delivery. This prevents blindness if they are exposed to gonorrhea or chlamydia infections at birth.
What Can I Do to Avoid STIs?
There are several ways that you can reduce your risk of getting STIs including:
- Getting tested for HIV and STDs. If you are in Georgia, call the information line at 1-800-551-2728 to find a testing center near you.
- Knowing your sexual partners and limiting their number.
- Using a latex condom every time you have vaginal, oral, or anal sex to decrease your chances of infection.
- Avoid risky sex acts or practices.
- Getting immunized to help prevent infections like hepatitis B and some types of HPV
- If you are HIV positive, call the Perinatal HIV Hotline at 1-888-448-8765 for expert advice, resources and to help you manage your HIV during your pregnancy.
Making good health decisions during your pregnancy helps your baby’s growth and development. Recognizing sexually transmitted infections and getting quick access to treatment can reduce complications and support a healthy delivery.
- Sexually Transmitted Infections in Pregnant Women: Integrating Screening and Treatment into Prenatal Care, Pediatric drugs
- STD during Pregnancy-CDC Fact Sheet, CDC
- AIDS Hotline, Georgia AIDS Coalition
- Clinician’s Guide to Routine HIV Testing During Pregnancy, Minnesota Department of Health
- How do sexually transmitted diseases and sexually transmitted infections (STDs/STIs) affect pregnancy?, NICHD
- How to prevent sexually transmitted infections, ACOG
- Adolescent Development and STD’s, HHS
- Sexually Transmitted Infections, HHS