When you’re expecting, you’re most likely very excited about meeting your new baby. However, you’re also probably experiencing a few worries too. The delivery and how a new baby will change your life are often top of the list of concerns. But, in some cases, worries about STIs can also weigh on your mind.
Here is some useful information about STIs for all soon-to-be mums:
All Pregnant Women Are Tested for
As part of every woman’s antenatal care, she is routinely tested for any STIs. Even if you don’t think you have an STI, many don’t present with visible symptoms so it’s important to take the tests to be 100% sure. Usually the tests are taken at one of the first antenatal appointments. This allows the medical team time to act quickly and provide appropriate treatment if any of the tests comes back positive.
Being Pregnant Doesn’t Protect You From STIs
Pregnant women can still contract an STI through having unprotected oral or penetrative sex during their pregnancy. If you’re unsure if a partner has a clean bill of sexual health or you’re having sex with a new partner, be sure to use a condom. And if you have had unprotected sex and are worried you may have an STI, contact your antenatal team right away.
STIs Can Have Negative Effects On Your Baby
The reason there’s so much concern about STIs and pregnancy is because of the negative effects they can cause for the unborn baby. Here is a summary of the most common STIs and their potential effects on a foetus:
Chlamydia can increase the risk of miscarriage and, if a mother is infected at the time of labour, she can pass the infection onto her baby. This increases the risk of new born eye infections and pneumonia.
Gonorrhoea can increase the risk of miscarriage and premature birth. Again, if a mother is infected when she goes into labour the baby may contract the infection. Babies with gonorrhoea are treated with eye drops and antibiotics to prevent blindness, blood disorders, meningitis and joint problems.
Herpes doesn’t affect a foetus in the womb. However, there is a small chance that a baby will become infected during delivery and develop serious, potentially life threatening, complications as a result. Sometimes a caesarean delivery is recommended to eliminate this risk.
Syphilis can lead to miscarriage, stillbirth and neurological problems for the new born baby. It can also lead to illnesses later in life if left untreated.
HIV can be passed from a mother to her unborn baby whilst in the womb. However, with the right antiretroviral drugs, the risk of infection stands at just 1%.
Whilst these facts are worrying, the good news is that STIs, when caught early in pregnancy, can be treated or managed effectively. This minimises the risk posed to your unborn baby and in some cases eliminates the risk altogether.
You can Pass STIs to Your Baby When Breastfeeding
If you choose to breastfeed your baby, you need to be aware that STIs can also pass to your baby through your breastmilk. Again, practise safe sex if you’re worried about contracting an STI during this time.
You’re Not Alone Being diagnosed with an STI when pregnant can be very worrying and upsetting. Talking to friends and family can be really helpful. However, if you feel you need additional support or just want to talk to someone who understands what you’re going through, there are plenty of support organisations out there. Charities like the raTrust offer counselling services and can point you in the direction of useful resources.
Knowing about STIs and their effect on pregnancy is important for all mums-to-be. If you have any concerns about your own sexual health, talk to your GP or your antenatal team to get the right tests and the right treatment as quickly as possible.