Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and your pregnancy – what to expect

If you’ve contracted an STD in your past, you may be wondering if – and how – it will affect your pregnancy. Read on to find out. By Lisa Witepski

STDs and pregnancy

STDs can have an impact on your developing baby, which makes it all the more important to recognise and treat symptoms as soon as possible.

Here’s what you need to know:

Get tested

Many STDs can lie dormant – and, even if you’ve been married or monogamous for a long time, you may have been infected years ago. That’s why the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the US recommend that all pregnant women should be tested for hepatitis B, HIV, chlamydia and syphilis. This is especially important if you have a new partner.

ALSO SEE: Your guide to antenatal checks

Testing for diseases include vaginal swabs or blood tests.

Symptoms of STDs

Symptoms of STDs may include:

  • A rash
  • Swelling or redness around the anus and genitals
  • Painful or burning sensation when urinating
  • Painful sex
  • Genital itching and a discharge.

Will an STD affect my baby?

STDs may affect your baby in a number of ways. For example:

  • Herpes may be passed on to the baby during labour.
  • Gonorrhoea brings an increased risk of miscarriage and, if the baby is born during a period of active infection, it may cause blindness, joint infection or a life-threatening blood infection. Gonorrhoea will also cause significant discomfort if you contract it during pregnancy. Look out for symptoms like abdominal pain, painful urination and discharge.
  • With genital warts, pregnancy hormones may cause the warts to grow, sometimes to the point where they block the birth canal.
  • Chlamydia carries a risk of premature birth or miscarriage, and may cause pneumonia or eye infections in newborns.
  • A woman with hepatitis B has a 40% chance of transmitting the disease to her baby.

Will I be able to have a vaginal birth I have a STD?

You may be advised to have a C-section if you have an STD, as this lessens the chance of your child contracting the disease as it passes through an infected birth canal.

ALSO SEE: HIV and pregnancy – everything you need to know to keep baby safe

Can I breastfeed if I have an STD?

It is best not to breastfeed if you have an STD, as you may pass the disease on to your child through your breast milk.

How do you treat an STD?

  • Treatment of the STD depends on the disease itself. For example, viruses like HIV can’t be cured, but support medication may help to manage the condition.
  • In other cases (like gonorrhoea, syphilis and chlamydia), an antibiotic may be prescribed.
  • If you’re suffering from herpes, you may be treated with anti-viral medication to control the lesions.
  • If you have genital warts, treatment may be deferred until you’ve delivered your baby.

Can STDs be prevented?

You can reduce your risk of contracting an STD by wearing condoms (you can still get certain STDs, like herpes, from skin-to-skin contact, even when using a condom). Abstain from sex with anyone who is infected or displays symptoms, such as a genital rash. If you and/or your partner are unsure if you may be infected, as many STDs don’t display symptoms, get tested before having sex.


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