The rate of Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI) and diseases (STD) are at record high levels. Considering one in four Americans or 110 million total Americans has an STD it is a topic that should be discussed; especially when there is risk of transfer in utero. Screening for STDs is the best means to avoiding passage to the baby. During your initial prenatal visit your doctor or midwife will likely screen you forChlamydia, Syphilis, Gonorrhea, Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C and Human Immunosuppressive Virus(HIV). All other STDs are not routinely screened as they do not pose a great threat unless an outbreak is active at birth. If you think you have an STD tell your doctor or midwife immediately; the faster the disease is discovered and treated the less risk it can pose to the growing fetus. These screenings are routine and may take place at various times throughout the pregnancy, especially during the third trimester to ensure the baby will not be exposed at birth.
If an expecting mother does display symptoms or tests positive for an STD, there are ways to prevent the STD from spreading to the baby. The treatment depends on the type of STD. For a bacterial STD like Gonorrhea or Syphilis, an antibiotic is generally prescribed and unless re-exposed to the disease it should not return. For a viral STD like HIV or Herpes the virus will never fully go away, however, antiviral medication can potentially terminate the outbreak and prevent further outbreaks. Because viral STDs can never completely be abolished, it is important to ensure the integrity of your immune system so that if you are at risk of an outbreak your body is better able to fight it off.
If an outbreak does occur near the estimated due date, a cesarean birth may be recommended to diminish the risk of the baby being exposed to active lesions as they pass through the birth canal. Avoiding contact with the region may reduce the risk of the baby having eye infections (which can lead to blindness), pneumonia, blood disorders, genital warts and other serious conditions. The best means to avoiding an STD is through refraining from oral, vaginal, and anal sex, or to be in a long-term, mutually monogamous relationship with a partner who has been tested and proven to be uninfected. Be sure to have a candid conversation with your provider as each case is different and other safe options may be available to you.