Many first-time moms are already aware of pregnant women’s routine health tests. Common ones include health screenings to check for genetic abnormalities and complications. Other tests for pregnant women checking for developmental issues using ultrasounds are also well-known.
What sometimes can go overlooked is the need for STD tests.
This article will discuss STD tests available to women during pregnancy, or any time there is cause for concern. Many sexually transmitted diseases and infections can affect the health of the mother and baby.
Doctors are now stressing the importance of having STD tests performed while pregnant.
STD Tests For Pregnant Women
There are more than twenty types of known STDs, some of which have resented over the past few years, most notably Chlamydia and Gonorrhea.
Source: Planned Parenthood
STDs And How They Hurt Pregnant Mothers And Newborns
Here are the five most common sexually transmitted diseases that can be dangerous during pregnancy.
HPV stands for Human Papilloma Virus. Over Seventy-nine million Americans have been diagnosed with some form of HPV. There are many strains of the virus, and some of them may cause genital warts or cervical cancer. Most people who contract the virus will clear the disease within a few weeks, like most other viruses.
If STD tests conclude a mother has contracted HPV while pregnant, the treatment is usually postponed until after the baby is born. Hormones released during pregnancy can cause genital warts to swell. Rarely can they swell to a size that would hinder the baby from exiting the womb? In this case, a C-section would be necessary.
There have been a few reported cases where mothers pass on the disease to the child during their birth. Sometimes this can lead to the growth of tumors in the baby’s throat. The tumors can be removed surgically but will likely recur in the future.
If a mother knows she has HPV before birth, a doctor can closely monitor her newborn. If he sees that tumors are developing, he can remove them before they completely block the baby’s airways.
There is no cure for genital Herpes, but it can be treated so that outbreaks become less frequent. While in the womb, it’s unlikely that the baby will suffer any complications from a mother having genital Herpes. Herpes is characterized by sores that appear on the surface of the vagina, usually on the labia.
STD tests for genital Herpes are often necessary as the virus can remain dormant for years, then reemerge during pregnancy. Herpes sores are often very painful. Sometimes the sores can turn into lesions if irritated by friction or soap allergies. Although herpes is contagious and can be spread at any time during physical contact, it’s less contagious if there are no visible sores/lesions.
If sores are present at the time of delivery, the baby is at higher risk for contracting herpes too. Herpes contracted during birth can impact the baby in serious ways. This includes problems with the eyes, skin, mouth, nose, and genitals. Because a newborn’s immune system is so delicate, herpes can affect the central nervous system and other visceral organs.
This can, in turn, cause fatal blood clotting, respiratory failure, and liver disease. Mothers with active Herpes outbreaks will want to consider having a C-section to avoid transmission. If the mother has numerous sores or severe herpes lesions, the doctor can prescribe medication to treat these issues.
Having an open wound is not healthy and is even more concerning during pregnancy. Open sores/lesions can present a gateway for bacteria and viruses to enter the mother’s bloodstream.
Gonorrhea is one of the most overlooked STDs to make a list. Unlike most STDs that are very obvious, eighty percent of women who contract them show no symptoms at all. For those who do show symptoms, things they may experience include burning urination, thick discharge, and pain in their lower abdomen.
The good news for women who have Gonorrhea is one hundred percent curable. Since Gonorrhea is a bacterial infection, taking a prescribed oral antibiotic will get rid of this STD.
STD tests for Gonorrhea are important because babies exposed to this disease during childbirth can suffer horribly. If their eyes were to become infected, they could go blind. Blood infections in babies who contract gonorrhea are less common. Nonetheless, a rare but real possibility does exist.
If the newborn were to suffer from a blood infection due to Gonorrhea, it could kill them.
If STD tests were to return positive for Gonorrhea right before the baby’s birth or directly following it, there is hope. Doctors can also treat babies to prevent such infections by administering specific medications.
Women can contract Syphilis and also be unaware of it.
Usually, Syphilis will initially show itself in the form of a small bump on the genitals. In a short time, the bump will disappear but leave a rash. Next, the rash will fade and not leave behind any symptoms. This asymptomatic stage can last for years or months.
Eventually, if left untreated, Syphilis will enter the final and most critical stage. At that point, Syphilis can harm the patient’s brain, heart, or eyes. Syphilis at any stage can cause the mother to miscarry. It can also infect the baby via the placenta. Almost every internal organ and bone structure within an infected baby is subject to damage.
Thankfully, Syphilis is a bacterial infection that can be cured with antibiotics.
At-risk mothers should have Syphilis STD tests performed early on. If the STD test reveals she does have Syphilis, the treatment can be started immediately. Hopefully, the medications will stop the infection before it reaches the fetus.
5. HIV/ AIDS
HIV and AIDS are different things. HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus. Aids stand for acquired immune deficiency syndrome. Patients with HIV may never develop AIDS if caught early on, and they can take anti-retroviral regimens.
The symptoms of HIV include weight loss, tiredness, and other flu-like indications. Long-term HIV and Aids make it difficult to fight off bacterial infections and viruses.
There is no cure for HIV or AIDS at this time. However, there are ways to protect an unborn baby.
Mothers with positive STD tests for HIV/AIDS can get treatment and follow protocol to keep their babies safer. If the mothers adhere to the doctor’s orders, their chance of infecting the unborn baby is only two percent.
Mothers with HIV/AIDS who do not take preventative measures have a twenty-five percent chance of infecting their children.
Source: March of Dimes