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Understanding STDs in Pregnancy -- Basic Information

Genital Warts

Genital warts or "condyloma" are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). This virus can lie latent, causing no symptoms, for months or years after infection. When an outbreak occurs, warts appear on or near the genitals or anus, or within the vagina. Pregnant women with HPV can have rapid growth of warts. HPV transmission from mother to baby can occur, but is rare. Babies who contract the virus can develop warts on their larynx (voice box) as infants or children — usually by age 5. But HPV is not considered a reason to do a cesarean section unless the warts are large enough to interfere with a vaginal delivery.

Gonorrhea

Gonorrhea is an STD caused by gonococcus or Neisseria gonorrhoeae. Most people who are infected with gonorrhea have no symptoms and are not aware that they are infected. Sometimes, women may experience vaginal discharge and itching, and both men and women may experience burning during urination. Some women aren't tested and treated until their sexual partner exhibits symptoms of painful urination and a thick, milky discharge from his penis. Untreated, gonorrhea can cause eye problems for a newborn, often leading to blindness. People infected with chlamydia often are also infected with gonorrhea. A pregnant woman with gonorrhea can transmit the infection to her baby during delivery. This can lead to serious infection in the newborn.

Syphilis

If you think you've been exposed to syphilis, it is important to be tested and treated. It can cause miscarriage or stillbirth in pregnant women. Untreated syphilis can also cause long-term problems in the brain, skin, bone, and liver. If a pregnant woman is infected with syphilis, she can transmit it to the fetus, leading to skin lesions or problems with the liver, spleen, bones, or nervous system. The primary symptom of syphilis is a painless genital sore. The sore will go away without treatment, but the bacteria remain in your body. If untreated, syphilis may cause more symptoms including rash, headache, fever, and general discomfort (malaise), and over time, may cause serious damage to the heart and central nervous system. All pregnant women have a routine blood test to screen for syphilis at the first prenatal visit.

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