Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), sometimes called sexually transmitted infections (STIs) or venereal diseases (VDs), are illnesses passed through sexual intercourse. According to Marla Ahlgrimm, many STDs can transfer from mother to child in utero and through the breastfeeding process. Syphilis, a common STD, is passed to a fetus while still in the womb. Others, such as hepatitis B, genital herpes, chlamydia, and gonorrhea, are transmitted as the baby exits the birth canal. HIV, which is commonly associated with AIDS, may cross the placenta and infect the baby during delivery.
Having a sexually transmitted disease while pregnant may cause preterm labor or uterine infection. Marla Ahlgrimm explains that STDs can cause low birth weight, pneumonia, eye infection, blood infection in the baby, poorly developed motor skills, brain damage, deafness, blindness, hepatitis, chronic liver disease and cirrhosis, and meningitis. Severe, untreated sexually transmitted infections can lead to stillbirth.
Being infected with a sexually transmitted disease does not preclude a woman from giving birth to a healthy baby, says Marla Ahlgrimm. Bacterial infections, including gonorrhea and chlamydia, can be eliminated with antibiotics, many of which are safe to take during pregnancy. Syphilis and trichomoniasis are other bacterial STDs that can be cured with antibiotics. Viral infections, including HIV and genital herpes, are incurable. A woman may lower her chances of transmitting a viral infection to her baby by taking an antiviral medication or having a cesarean delivery.
Women with an STD that wish to breastfeed should consult with their doctor to find out if it’s safe. There are a few STDs that cannot be transmitted through breast milk, including herpes and syphilis, providing the baby and/or pumping equipment does not coming contact with a sore. Women with chlamydia, human papilloma virus (HPV), or gonorrhea have no specific breastfeeding restrictions, says Marla Ahlgrimm.
Marla Ahlgrimm explains that many venereal disease treatments are safe during all stages of pregnancy and can help a women have a happy and healthy baby.
If you suspect that you have a sexually transmitted disease and are or wish to become pregnant, you should contact your healthcare provider for guidance.