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Can You Be Born with an STD? FAQs on STDs and Pregnancy

If you’re sexually active, the idea of contracting sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) can result in feelings of anxiety and uncertainty. However, if you’re an expecting mother, you may feel even more concerned about your health — and the health of your developing baby. 

You may find yourself wondering, “Can you be born with an STD?” or “Can STDs affect my pregnancy?” While these questions are common, many pregnant women cannot find a clear answer due to the stigma and lack of education surrounding STDs. 

Our staff at Rapid STD Testing compiled this detailed guide with answers to common questions and concerns regarding rapid STD tests, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and pregnancy. Here, you can find the answers you need to ensure a healthy pregnancy.

Types of STIs That Can Infect a Baby in the Womb 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), STDs can impact both you and your developing baby. While you can’t naturally develop an STD, you can contract an infection from sexual partners through:

  • Unprotected vaginal, anal, or oral sex
  • Contact with bodily fluids
  • Intimate contact with an infected person 

To reduce the risk of transmitting infections to babies during pregnancy, the CDC outlines specific recommendations for prenatal STI screenings. Most expectant mothers receive comprehensive testing at their first prenatal visit. However, if you are at high risk for contracting an STD, your healthcare provider will likely re-screen you during your third trimester for potential infections, including: 

Syphilis

You may contract syphilis through direct contact with syphilis sores or unprotected sex with an infected person. When detected early, you can treat syphilis and reduce the risk of spreading the infection to your baby. If left untreated, your baby may contract congenital syphilis. This preventable STD can result in infant death. It is crucial to get tested for STIs and prevent infection during pregnancy. 

Chlamydia

Though chlamydia is the most common bacterial STD in the United States, most infected women don’t have any symptoms. Still, you can pass chlamydia to children through vaginal delivery, making it critical to detect and treat the infection as quickly as possible. Untreated chlamydia can cause eye and lung infections in your newborn.  

Gonorrhea

Like chlamydia, many women infected with gonorrhea don’t have any symptoms. However, if left untreated, the infection can impact your pregnancy and labor or transmit to your baby during delivery. 

Genital Herpes

You can contract genital herpes from direct contact or unprotected sex, but can you be born with an STD like herpes? Yes, you can pass herpes to your baby during pregnancy or delivery. 

Women who contract herpes or experience their first outbreak near their delivery are more likely to infect their children. Even so, most healthcare providers recommend a C-section to prevent your baby from contracting the infection.

Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C

Hepatitis B — also known as Hep B — spreads through unprotected sex and contact with infected fluids, such as saliva, vaginal fluid, semen, or blood. The infection often has no symptoms, but the long-term effects can cause liver damage, disease, or cancer. In addition, your baby can contract chronic Hepatitis B if infected at birth. 

Hepatitis C creates an infection in your liver, which you can transmit to your baby. That said, pregnant mothers generally have a reduced likelihood of passing Hep C to their babies. If the baby does contract Hep C, the infection usually clears up without any treatment. 

HIV

HIV — also known as human immunodeficiency virus — attacks your body’s immune system and can lead to AIDS if left untreated. You can infect your developing baby with HIV during pregnancy, labor, delivery, or breastfeeding. However, when diagnosed and treated, you can reduce the risk of infecting your baby to 2% or less

Effects of Having an STD While Pregnant

If left untreated, an STD can result in serious health concerns for both you and your developing baby. Certain STDs can lead to complications, while others can cause neonatal conditions or chronic diseases. 

Fortunately, you can protect yourself and your baby by receiving regular check-ups and testing in the first and third trimesters. In addition, you can take advantage of same-day STD testing from our staff at Rapid STD Testing for quick, confidential results that can help keep you and your baby healthy.

STDs can impact your pregnancy in several ways, including:

Premature Delivery

Premature delivery means that you go into labor and deliver your child too early. Typically, medical professionals consider a birth that occurs before the 37th week of pregnancy as premature. Premature babies may experience developmental delays as well as other health conditions. 

Premature Rupture of Membranes (PROM)

Also known as PROM, premature rupture of membranes occurs when the amniotic sac around your baby bursts before you go into labor. As a result, you have a higher chance of developing an infection or experiencing a premature delivery. 

Low Birth Weight

Some STDs can result in low birth weight, meaning that your baby weighs less than five pounds and eight ounces when born. 

Chorioamnionitis

Chorioamnionitis occurs when bacteria infect the membranes and amniotic fluid surrounding your baby. The infection can cause premature births and severe infections that enter your bloodstream or uterine lining. In some cases, you may require a C-section to deliver your baby safely. Untreated chorioamnionitis can also lead to meningitis or pneumonia in newborns.

Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID)

Pelvic inflammatory disease, or PID, can infect your reproductive system, including your womb, fallopian tubes, ovaries, and cervix. In many cases, PID can impact your ability to become pregnant or result in ectopic pregnancy, a life-threatening condition in which a fertilized egg implants outside of your uterus. 

Prenatal STD Transmission

Some STDs, such as Hepatitis B, HIV, Zika, or syphilis, can pass to your baby while still in the womb if left undiscovered or untreated. For example, you can transmit Hep B to your child through the placenta, resulting in a prenatal infection and potential liver damage.  

Chronic Health Conditions

If your baby becomes infected with an STD during pregnancy, labor, delivery, or breastfeeding, they may endure life-long side effects. 

The effects of prenatal (pre-delivery) or neonatal (post-delivery) exposure to STDs can affect your baby in several ways. Some STDs, such as chlamydia or gonorrhea, may result in eye infections, lung infections, joint infections, blood infections, or pneumonia. 

Others, such as Hepatitis B or C, can cause liver damage, liver disease, or even liver cancer. Untreated HIV may spread to your baby, resulting in an HIV infection. Finally, syphilis can result in premature delivery, fatal illnesses, or organ damage.

Miscarriage or Stillbirth

Finally, some untreated STDs can result in miscarriages or stillbirths. A miscarriage occurs when a baby dies in the womb before the 20th week of pregnancy. Stillbirths occur following the 20th week of pregnancy. 

Testing and Diagnosis of STD Pregnancy 

Because sexually transmitted infections can result in serious or even fatal conditions for you and your child, most pregnant women get tested during their first prenatal visit. Your doctor will typically check for STIs such as HIV, chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, and Hep B. 

If you engage in high-risk sexual activities, such as unprotected sex with multiple sexual partners, your doctor will likely screen you for certain STDs throughout your pregnancy. 

Even if you don’t have any symptoms, you should still get tested to ensure a healthy pregnancy. Most STDs have very few, if any, symptoms. As a result, many pregnant women don’t know that they’ve contracted an STD for months or years. That said, some of the most common STD symptoms include: 

  • Genital warts, sores, or bumps
  • Redness, swelling, or inflammation near the vagina 
  • Flu-like symptoms, such as headache or fatigue 
  • Abdominal pain
  • Vaginal discharge
  • Pain during or after sex
  • Bleeding after sex or between menstrual cycles
  • Eye infections
  • Mouth sores
  • Skin rash
  • Pain while urinating
  • Itching near the vagina
  • Weight loss
  • Night sweats

If you experience any of these STD symptoms or believe you were exposed to an STD, early detection and treatment can help keep you and your baby safe. However, our team at Rapid STD Testing knows that you can’t always wait until your next prenatal visit to get the answers you need. You may also feel too embarrassed or afraid to speak with your doctor. 

That’s why we offer a full range of same-day STI tests and panels. Our discreet testing facilities and rapid results make it easy to take control of your health. We’ve opened more than 4,000 testing centers across the United States, even in rural areas without easily accessible medical care. We also offer same-day testing and results in three days or less. 

Depending on your needs, you can choose from our comprehensive 10-panel STD test or twelve individual tests, including: 

  • Hepatitis A
  • Hepatitis B
  • Hepatitis C
  • HIV 1 and 2 Antibody
  • HIV RNA Early Detection
  • Syphilis
  • Herpes I
  • Herpes II
  • Chlamydia
  • Gonorrhea
  • Chlamydia and Gonorrhea
  • Trichomoniasis 

In the event of a positive test result, you’ll receive a confidential consultation with one of our doctors. During the appointment, we will:

  • Go over the results of your screening
  • Help you determine the best treatment options for you and your baby
  • Send your prescription to the pharmacy of your choice. 

Finally, if you test positive for HIV, we’ll ensure that you get the help you need to prevent transmission and live a healthy life. 

After receiving your results, you can also share your panel with your healthcare provider and work with your prenatal care team to protect your developing baby throughout the rest of your pregnancy. Your doctor may decide to run additional tests, especially if you test positive for Hepatitis B or HIV. 

Your doctor can then determine if you’re likely to spread the infection to your child during pregnancy or delivery and take action to prevent transmission. Finally, your doctor may perform a blood test to check your baby for evidence of an STD at birth. 

Treatments for STD During Pregnancy 

Learning that you’ve contracted an STD while pregnant can create intense fear. Lack of education surrounding STDs — as well as the stigma that comes with a positive STD test — can make you feel isolated, anxious, and embarrassed. You may not know how to talk to your doctor or tell your partner you have an STD

That said, early detection and treatment of STDs can significantly reduce the risk of complications during pregnancy, labor, and delivery. Doctors can effectively treat some STIs during pregnancy. In fact, pregnant women can usually take antibiotics while pregnant and cure most bacterial or parasitic infections, including: 

  • Chlamydia
  • Gonorrhea
  • Syphilis
  • Trichomoniasis

Doctors can’t always cure viral infections like herpes, Hep B, Hep C, and HIV. However, you can take certain antiviral medications and therapies to reduce the impact of viral STDs on your body and manage your symptoms. In addition, you can make a birth plan that helps prevent your baby from contracting the infection, typically through a C-section. 

How to Protect the Mother and Her Baby from STIs 

Learning to protect you and your baby from STDs can help prevent the stress of a diagnosis. Fortunately, the best way to prevent your baby from dealing with the effects of an STD is to protect yourself from STDs. 

That said, if you think you’ve been exposed to an STD, you should immediately get tested by your doctor or at one of our Rapid STD Testing facilities. You can also take several steps to reduce the risk of contracting an STD, including: 

Abstaining from Sex

While you can now choose from dozens of birth control methods to help prevent infection, abstaining from sex ensures that you won’t contract an STD. Abstinence includes oral, vaginal, and anal sex.

Limiting Your Sex Partners

The only way to contract an STD is through intimate physical contact, exposure to infected bodily fluids, or unprotected sex. With that in mind, you can protect yourself from exposure by having sex with one partner who doesn’t have any infections and practices monogamy. Before you have sex with a new partner, ensure that both you and your partner get tested. 

Using Barrier Birth Control Methods

Barrier birth control methods help prevent pregnancy by keeping sperm away from an egg. These methods include condoms, cervical caps, contraceptive sponges, and diaphragms. 

While barrier methods may help prevent pregnancy, diaphragms, cervical caps, and sponges won’t protect you from STDs. Neither will IUDs, hormonal implants, or birth control pills. Male condoms are typically the most effective way to prevent exposure to an STD. You may also consider female condoms or dental dams for oral sex. 

Reducing Drug and Alcohol Use

While drugs and alcohol don’t cause STDs, the substances may lower your inhibitions. As a result, you may engage in high-risk activities, such as unprotected sex with a new partner. Limiting your use of drugs and alcohol can help you make informed, educated decisions that keep you and your baby safe from STDs. 

Getting Tested

Finally, you can protect yourself, your partner, and your baby through regular STD testing. Can you be born with an STD? Yes, in some cases, the mother can pass an STD to the baby during vaginal birth. 

A confidential, quick STD test from our team at Rapid STD Testing can empower you with the information and peace of mind you need to take control of your health without raising your insurance rates or disrupting your busy schedule. 

Test for STDs During Pregnancy with Rapid STD Testing

If you’re pregnant and think you may have been exposed to STDs, you don’t have to wait any longer to get the answers you need. For more information or help finding the right test, please call one of our experienced Rapid STD Testing counselors today at (866) 872-1888