- Pregnancy: Sexually Transmitted Diseases Center
- Stages of Pregnancy Slideshow Pictures
- Slideshow of Early Pregnancy Symptoms
- Early Pregnancy Symptoms Quiz
- Find a local Obstetrician-Gynecologist in your town
Pregnancy and Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) Introduction
Sexually transmitted diseases, commonly called STDs, are infections that are spread by having sex with someone who has a STD. You can get a sexually transmitted disease from sexual activity that involves the mouth, anus, or vagina.
STDs are serious illnesses that require treatment, regardless of whether or not you are pregnant. But, when you are pregnant, you are not the only one at risk; many STDs can be especially harmful to you and your baby. Some STDs, like HIV/AIDS, cannot be cured and may be deadly.
Your health care provider will likely screen for some STDs at your first prenatal visit, but if you have sex with someone who might be infected, you will need to be screened at subsequent appointments and treated. If you suspect you have been exposed to a STD, be sure to tell your doctor immediately. Fast treatment is the best way to protect you and your baby.
What Are the Symptoms of STDs?
Sometimes, there are no symptoms of a STD. If symptoms are present, they may include:
- Bumps, sores, or warts near the mouth, anus, penis, or vagina
- Swelling or redness near the penis or vagina
- Skin rash with or without pain
- Painful urination
- Weight loss, loose stool, night sweats
- Aches, pains, fever, and chills
- Yellowing of the skin (jaundice)
- Discharge from the penis or vagina (vaginal discharge may have an odor)
- Bleeding from the vagina other than during a monthly period
- Painful sex
- Severe itching near the penis or vagina
How Can STDs Affect My Pregnancy?
STDs in pregnancy can harm you and your developing baby depending on the type of infection.
- HIV/AIDS: Thanks to the creation of powerful medications, transmission of HIV infection to your infant is almost completely preventable. But, when the disease is passed on, the results are catastrophic -- the baby may develop HIV infection.
- Herpes: Herpes infection in a pregnant woman is relatively safe until she gets ready to deliver. Active herpes lesions on the genitals are highly contagious and can infect the infant as he or she is being born. Also, the virus may begin multiplying and become infectious before any skin symptoms appear. Therefore, many women with herpes have a cesarean section to prevent the transmission of herpes to the newborn.
- Gonorrhea: Gonorrhea is a very common STD, usually diagnosed by performing a test on a swab of vaginal fluid. If contracted during pregnancy, the infection can cause vaginal discharge, burning while emptying the bladder, or abdominal pain. A pregnant woman with untreated gonorrhea has an increased risk of miscarriage or preterm delivery. A baby that is born while the mother has an active infection can develop blindness, joint infection, or a life threatening blood infection.
- HPV (Genital Warts): This is a very common STD. The genital warts often appear as small cauliflower-like clusters which may burn or itch. If you contract genital warts during pregnancy, treatment may be delayed until after you deliver. Sometimes the hormones from pregnancy can make them grow larger. If they grow large enough to block the birth canal, the baby may need to be delivered by a cesarean section.
- Chlamydia: Chlamydia may cause an increased risk of miscarriage and preterm delivery. Newborns who are exposed can get severe eye infections and pneumonia.
- Syphilis: Syphilis is most often diagnosed with a blood test, although a syphilitic skin lesion can also be tested. Syphilis is easily passed on to your unborn child. It is likely to cause a very serious infection to your baby that can be fatal. The infants are often premature. Untreated infants that survive tend to develop problems in multiple organs including the brain, eyes, ears, heart, skin, teeth, and bones.
- Hepatitis B: Hepatitis B is a liver infection caused by the hepatitis B virus. If a pregnant woman is infected with hepatitis B, she can transmit the infection to her baby through the placenta. Also, her newborn can become infected. In addition, women with hepatitis B are more likely to have a premature delivery. Luckily, early screening and the more widespread use of the hepatitis B vaccine can prevent infection.
- Trichomoniasis: Trichomoniasis is an infection that can cause yellow-green vaginal discharge and pain with sex or when emptying the bladder. It can increase the risk of having a preterm baby. Rarely, the new baby can get the infection during delivery and have a vaginal discharge after birth.
How Can I Find Out If I Have an STD?
At your prenatal visit, your health care provider will screen for a number of STDs. But, if you think you have a STD, tell your provider. He or she can examine you and perform other tests to determine if you have a sexually transmitted disease. Be especially vigilant if you have a new sexual partner during pregnancy.
How Are STDs Treated During Pregnancy?
Treatment of a STD during pregnancy depends on how far the infection has progressed and how far along you are in your pregnancy. Many bacterial STDs like syphilis, gonorrhea, and chlamydia are treated with antibiotics given as a shot or taken by mouth. Below are common treatments for STDs in pregnant women and newsborns.
- HIV/AIDS: Although an incurable disease, you can prevent transmitting the virus to your baby by taking a multitude of medication.
- Herpes: Your doctor can prescribe antiviral pills to treat these lesions. Women with active herpes lesions at delivery will likely have a cesarean section to prevent transmitting the infection to the baby.
- Gonorrhea: Pregnant women with the infection can be treated with antibiotics. Because gonorrhea is often without symptoms, all newborn babies are given medications in their eyes at birth to prevent development of the gonorrhea eye infection.
- HPV (Genital Warts): If you contract genital warts during pregnancy, treatment may be delayed until after you deliver.
- Chlamydia: Mothers with chlamydia are treated with antibiotics. The drug used on all newborns to prevent a gonorrhea eye infection also prevents chlamydia from infecting the eye, but it can't prevent the pneumonia that may develop later.
- Syphilis: Your doctor will prescribe antibiotics during your pregnancy to decrease risk of transmitting the infection to your baby and stop the syphilis from progressing in you.
- Hepatitis B: If you have hepatitis B, your doctor will give your newborn an injection of antibodies to prevent him or her from becoming infected.
- Trichomoniasis: Pregnant women can be treated with medication to cure the infection.
If you are given an antibiotic to treat a STD, it's important that you take all of your medicine, even if the symptoms go away. Also never take someone else's medicine to treat your illness. By doing so, you may make it more difficult to treat the infection. Likewise, you should not share your medicine with others.
Quick GuideSTD Diagnosis, Images, Symptoms, Treatment
How Can I Protect Myself From STDs?
Here are some basic steps that you can take to protect yourself from contracting STDs:
- Consider that not having sex is the only sure way to prevent STDs.
- Use a latex condom every time you have sex, particularly if you have more than one sex partner. (If you use a lubricant, make sure it is water-based.)
- Limit your number of sexual partners. The more partners you have, the more likely you are to catch a STD.
- Practice monogamy. This means having sex with only one person. That person must also have sex with only you to reduce your risk.
- Choose your sex partners with care. Don't have sex with someone whom you suspect may have a STD or who has many sexual partners.
- Get checked for STDs. Don't risk giving the infection to someone else or your baby. Just because you've been screened for STDs early on in your pregnancy, does not mean that you can't contract one later during your pregnancy. If you engage in unprotected sex with more than one partner since your last STD screen, you need another set of screening tests. Also, you should be concerned if your partner may be having unprotected sex with other people.
- Don't use alcohol or drugs before you have sex. You may be less likely to practice safe sex if you are drunk or high. Plus, alcohol and drugs can harm your developing baby.
- Know the signs and symptoms of STDs. Look for them in yourself and your sex partners.
- Learn about STDs. The more you know about STDs, the better you can protect yourself.
How Can I Avoid Spreading a STD?
- Stop having sex until you see a health care provider and are treated.
- Follow your health care provider's instructions for treatment.
- Use condoms whenever you have sex, especially with new partners.
- Don't resume having sex unless your health care provider says it's OK.
- Return to your health care provider to get rechecked.
- Be sure your sex partner or partners are also treated.
WebMD Medical Reference
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The March of Dimes.
Reviewed by Mikio A. Nihira, MD on December 20, 2009
Top Sexually Transmitted Diseases and Pregnancy (STDs) Related Articles
Female Screening TestsWhat is a health screening? Why is it important to know your blood pressure? How long will your health screening take? Learn about wellness screenings for women for breast cancer, HIV, diabetes, osteoporosis, skin cancer, and more.
Genital Herpes QuizWhat is genital herpes? Learn the causes, symptoms in men and women, and treatments for this common sexually transmitted skin disease.
HIV/AIDS Myths SlidesWhat is HIV AIDS (human immunodeficiency virus-acquired immunodeficiency syndrome)? Discover myths and facts about living with HIV/AIDS. Learn about HIV/AIDS treatment options, symptoms, and diagnosis.
What Are HIV & AIDS?HIV, or human immunodeficiency virus, causes acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, or AIDS. Learn about HIV positive, being HIV positive, how HIV infection spreads, T-Cell counts, antiretroviral therapy (ART), viral load, Truveda, and other HIV/AIDS therapies.
HIV TestingHIV antibody tests detect antibodies the body produces to neutralize the virus. HIV RNA testing uses polymerase chain reaction to detect HIV RNA in a person's blood. It usually takes one to three days to get results.
An IUD (intrauterine device) is a birth control method designed for a woman. The IUD is a small "T" made of molded polyethylene plastic coated with barium so that, if need be, it can be seen on X-ray.
There are two types of IUDs 1) Intrauterine contraceptive device (IUCD) including the ParaGard, Copper 7, and Mini-7; and 2) Intrauterine system (IUS) including Progestasert and Mirena.
Side effects of the IUD include spotting, infection, infertility, pelvic inflammatory disease, and heavy menstrual bleeding. Risks and complications of the IUD are miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, pelvic inflammatory disease, and increased menstrual bleeding.
Natural Methods of Birth ControlNatural methods of contraception are considered "natural" because they are non-mechanical and non-hormonal. Fertility awareness methods (FAMs) are based upon knowing when a woman ovulates each month. Natural methods of birth control include: the calendar rhythm, basal body temperature, mucus inspection, symptothermal, use of an ovulation indicator testing kit, withdrawal, lactational infertility, douching and urination, and abstinence.
Pap SmearA Pap smear (Pap test) is a medical procedure to screen for abnormal cells of the cervix. A woman should have her first Pap smear (in general) three years after vaginal intercourse, or no later than 21 years of age. The risks for women at increased risk for having an abnormal Pap smear include: HPV (genital warts), smoking, a weakened immune system, medications (diethylstilbestrol), and others. Some of the conditions that may result in an abnormal Pap smear include: absence of endocervical cells, unreliable Pap smear due to inflammation, atypical squamous cells (ASCUS), low-grade squamous intraepithelial lesion (LSIL), high-grade squamous intraepithelial lesion (HSIL), cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN), and carcinoma in situ.
PMS vs. Pregnancy Differences and Similarities
Many women have difficulty figuring out if they are pregnant, have PMS, or are about to start their period. The most common signs and symptoms of early pregnancy, PMS, and the start of your period include mood swings, back pain, increased urination, and tender breasts. These three conditions also share other similar signs and symptoms, but there are unique differences between each. Moreover, there are symptoms that only occur if you are pregnant.
Early pregnancy symptoms, PMS, and the start of the menstrual period all have common signs and symptoms like mood swings, back pain, and breast pain. Symptoms and signs between the three conditions that may seem similar, but are slightly different include:
- Pelvic or abdominal cramping before or during your menstrual period is normal; however, the cramping of early pregnancy is mild.
- If you are pregnant, nausea and vomiting, or morning sickness, is common. They are not common symptoms of PMS.
- Fatigue is common in both, but PMS usually goes away once your period begins.
- Food cravings or aversions to certain foods are common in both pregnancy and PMS, but if you are pregnant, the cravings or aversions to foods are more specific and intense.
- You may have spotting or bleeding if you are pregnant or suffering from PMS. When the embryo inserts itself into the uterus (implantation bleeding), you may mistake it as your menstrual period. However, implantation bleeding is much lighter (not enough to soak a pad or tampon) than the heaving bleeding experienced at the beginning of your period.
Signs and symptoms that you may have only if you are pregnant include, implantation cramping and bleeding, a white, milky vaginal discharge, and your areolas or nipples darken.
The only way to find out if you are pregnant is with a pregnancy test. Home pregnancy test kits are available without a prescription at pharmacies and most grocery stores. Contact a doctor or other health care professional if you think you may be pregnant.
Pregnancy Symptoms Am I Pregnant
Pregnancy symptoms can vary from woman to woman, and not all women experience the same symptoms. When women do experience pregnancy symptoms they may include symptoms include missed menstrual period, mood changes, headaches, lower back pain, fatigue, nausea, breast tenderness, and heartburn. Signs and symptoms in late pregnancy include leg swelling and shortness of breath. Options for relief of pregnancy symptoms include exercise, diet, and other lifestyle changes.
Pregnancy: Bleeding During the First Trimester
Bleeding during pregnancy is never normal. Causes of bleeding during the first trimester of a pregnancy may be caused by implantation bleeding, ectopic or tubal pregnancy, subchorionic hemorrhaging, infections, and miscarriage. Bleeding during the 2nd and 3rd trimesters of pregnancy can be caused by a variety of factors.
Puberty in Girls QuizTake the Puberty In Girls Quiz to learn the myths and facts about normal adolescent growth and development for teens and tweens.
Spotting vs. Period DifferencesMenstruation (a female's "period") occurs due to the shedding of the lining of the uterus. Menstrual bleeding lasts about three to five days, and the bleeding is heavy the first couple of days and then it lessens. Spotting is vaginal bleeding between periods.
Take the STD QuizThere are more sexually transmitted diseases than just the ones you've heard of. Find out what you've been missing with the STD Quiz.
STDs Facts SlideshowLearn about sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) including symptoms, signs, diagnosis, and treatment options. Get more information on herpes, genital warts, chlamydia, scabies, HIV/AIDS, and other STDs.
Swollen Lymph NodesLymph nodes help the body's immune system fight infections. Causes of swollen lymph nodes (glands) may include infection (viral, bacterial, fungal, parasites). Symptoms of swollen lymph nodes vary greatly, but may include fever, night sweats, toothache, sore throat, or weight loss. Causes of swollen lymph nodes also vary, but may include cancer, the common cold, mono, chickenox, HIV, and herpes. The treatment of swollen lymph nodes depends upon the cause.
Vagina PictureThe vagina is an elastic, muscular canal with a soft, flexible lining that provides lubrication and sensation. See a picture of the Vagina and learn more about the health topic.
Vaginal Douche (Douching)
Women douche for a variety of reasons, however, doctors and other healthcare professional do not recommend douching. Douching can change the vaginal flora, and make women more prone to vaginal infections. Health problems linked to douching include sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), and vaginal irritation.