Screenings for these sexually transmitted infections during pregnancy are quite important as infected women may have no significant symptoms and untreated infection(s) can have fatal consequences on mother and baby’s health…
1. Gonorrhea & Chlamydia
While many women with these common STIs have no symptoms at all, others may experience abnormal vaginal discharge, bleeding after sex and burning sensation while urinating.
Untreated chlamydia and gonorrhea infections can cause complications including an ectopic pregnancy (pregnancy developing outside the uterus), low birth weight, premature birth and miscarriage.
A mother may also transmit these infections to her newborn as it passes through the birth canal. While Chlamydia can cause pneumonia and severe eye infections that may result in blindness, gonorrhea can cause the aforementioned as well as life-threatening blood infections.
Pregnant women should therefore get tested for these infections with the nucleic acid amplification test (NAAT), which may be done using a urine sample. Safe antibiotics are usually prescribed to treat infected pregnant women.
HIV testing is also recommended for all pregnant women to detect this virus which destroys the immune system, and reduce the risk of transmission to the foetus. A blood test is usually done to detect any antibodies against HIV.
With highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART), pregnant women who test positive can be treated to control the infection. The risk of mother to child transmission can also be reduced to less than two percent.
Studies have associated this STI with increased risk of miscarriage and premature birth. Mother to unborn baby transmission can also cause severe defects in multiple organs of the baby, including the brain, eyes, ears, heart, skin, teeth, and bones, and in some cases, transmission to baby may lead to death.
Pregnant women should therefore get screened through appropriate blood tests.
4. Hepatitis B
Pregnant women should also get a blood test for Hepatitis B, a liver infection caused by the hepatitis B virus, which can be acute or chronic. An acute infection may cause symptoms including yellowing of the skin and eyes, dark urine, extreme fatigue, nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain that last several weeks, though some women may not experience any symptom.
Infected pregnant woman can transmit the infection to baby through the placenta, and the risk of this happening is said to be approximately 40 percent. There is a 90 percent risk of infected newborns developing chronic hepatitis B, which can lead to liver cirrhosis or liver cancer.
Chronic Hepatitis B is preventable through vaccinations (ask your doctor) but currently has no cure.
5. Bacterial Vaginosis
Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is often not considered an STI, though it may increase a woman’s chances of contracting one. It’s often characterized by excessive growth of nonbeneficial bacteria in the vagina. Infected women may complain of a foul-smelling, fishy, vaginal discharge, though several women have no symptoms.
Testing for bacterial vaginosis is currently not recommended during pregnancy, however, diagnosis can be done by analyzing a sample of vaginal fluid. Safe oral antibiotics are usually prescribed for treatment.
Bacterial vaginosis during pregnancy may cause premature birth and having a baby with low birth weight.