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Understanding STDs in Pregnancy -- Basic Information

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.

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B infection is caused by the hepatitis B virus (HBV), which spreads through contact with an infected person's blood and other bodily fluids. When you first contract HBV, you may experience fatigue, nausea, vomiting, muscle and joint pain, headache, dark urine, gray stools, a chest cold, and jaundice, but many infected persons don't know they are infected. When you first become infected with HBV your body will fight the infection and you usually develop antibodies that make you immune. Some people infected with hepatitis B continue to carry the virus, rather than develop immunity, after their initial infection. These "chronic carriers" usually have no symptoms but still can infect others through sexual intercourse or by contact with their blood and other bodily fluids. A chronic carrier may infect her baby during pregnancy or childbirth. If your baby is infected, he or she may suffer serious liver problems. Chronic carriers themselves may develop liver disease and liver cancer.

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.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Trina Pagano, MD on October 04, 2012
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