Each year in the United States, there are about 12 million new cases of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and that’s not including infection with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). That statistic also doesn’t account for the many women, men, and teens who have an STI but don’t yet know it.
If you have an STI and are pregnant, you may wonder if your infection or disease could affect your baby. It could. That’s why we always test for STIs as part of prenatal and prepregnancy care.
Once you know that you have an STI and you’re pregnant, too, you must take extra precautions. At Elite Gynecology, our expert gynecologists, Molly McBride, MD, and Tamara Guichard, MD, give you the treatments and advice you need to stay healthy and have a healthy baby.
At our offices, we test for and treat STIs in pregnant women. We’ve assembled this brief guide to help you understand how your STI may affect your pregnancy, your baby, and your long-term health.
Your STI can infect your baby, too
If you have an STI, you can pass it to your developing child, or even to your baby after it’s born. Without treatment and care, your baby could become infected in a number of different ways.
First, many STIs, including syphilis and HIV, can cross the placental barrier and infect your fetus in your womb. Others — including Hepatitis B, gonorrhea, chlamydia, herpes, and HIV — can be passed to your baby during vaginal delivery.
You may even pass an STI to your baby if you breastfeed. For instance, if you touch a herpes sore and then touch your breast, you could develop a sore on your breast.
If you have a herpes sore on or near your nipple, your baby could be infected while nursing. HIV can be passed to your baby in breast milk. You should never breastfeed if you have HIV.
If you have other types of infections, we give you guidance about when, how, and if you can breastfeed. You may be able to pump your breast milk, as long as you don’t have sores on your breast that contact the pump.
Treat or cure your STI
All STIs can be treated and managed. Bacterial STIs are cured by a course of antibiotics.
STIs that can be cured during pregnancy include:
Unfortunately, STIs that are caused by viruses, such as HIV and herpes, can’t be cured. If you have HIV or herpes, your doctor may recommend a C-section delivery so that the virus isn’t passed to your baby during its birth.
You can also reduce the risk of passing the infection to your baby by taking antiviral medications. Antivirals for herpes reduce the frequency of outbreaks, so you may be able to have a vaginal delivery. Taking antiviral medication for HIV can reduce the risk that you’ll pass the virus to your baby.
Pregnancy doesn’t protect against STIs
If you’ve cleared your STI, or if you’ve never had one, you still must take precautions if you’re having sex while pregnant. Pregnancy offers no protections from STIs for you or your baby.
Practice safer sex by using condoms every time you have intercourse. If you or your partner have genital herpes, don’t engage in intimate touch or intercourse until the sores clear.
Most important, continue to be tested for STIs during your pregnancy. The sooner we know that you and your baby are at risk, the sooner we can get you the treatment you need.
Prevent new STIs now
You can protect against new STIs by changing your habits and getting vaccinated. Steps you can take to keep yourself and your baby safe include:
- Vaccination against human papilloma virus (HPV)
- Vaccination against Hepatitis B
- Limit sexual partners
- Be monogamous
- Always use condoms
- Don’t douche
- Don’t abuse alcohol or drugs
- Get tested
- Encourage your partner to get tested
Prenatal care is always important, but it’s extra important if you’re pregnant with an STI. To find out how to manage your STI and keep your baby safe, contact our team at the office nearest you — in Murray Hill (Midtown East) in Manhattan, New York City, or in Forest Hills, New York. You can phone us or click the button to request an appointment.