Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) or sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are not fun or easy to talk about. It can be embarrassing to talk about STIs or STDs, but they are more common than you might realize. And, when it comes to pregnancy and STIs and STDs, it is best to learn about how to protect yourself from and treat STIs and STDs.
STIs and STDs are infections that are spread by having sex with someone that has a sexually transmitted infection. This could include oral, vaginal or anal intercourse. While STIs are common among men and women who are sexually active, many people do not know they have been infected. Some women may not find out that they have an STI until their first prenatal appointment when pregnant. Prenatal STI screening is standard because it is best to find out about an STI early in your pregnancy.
How do I know if I have an STI or STD? At the first prenatal appointment, many women are tested (screened) for STIs including: chlamydia, gonorrhea, HIV, syphilis, Hepatitis B, and Hepatitis C. Testing may be done through blood tests, vaginal swabs and urine tests. If you suspect you might have an STI/STD, you should ask for testing. Testing is routinely done on pregnant women who are less than 25 years of age as well as those women that have new or multiple sexual partners, have a sexual partner that has other partners, past or current needle drug users, not in a monogamous relationship, no or sporadic condom use, a sexual partner that has an STI, sex workers, exchanging sex for drugs or money, and/or those living in high risk areas.
What happens if I have an STI or STD? If you test positive, you will be notified by your healthcare professional in several days or about a week. Usually, immediate treatment with antibiotics can clear up an STI. A follow-up test in the third trimester may be performed, depending on your age or risk factors. In the case of HIV, on-going treatment for you and your baby will be required. With all STIs, the sooner treatment is started, the sooner the infection can be treated and reduce the incidence of passing the STI on to your baby.
Will my pregnancy be affected? Early testing during the first trimester and follow up testing during the third trimester, as well as treatment if an STI has been detected, will have a major impact on the chance of you and your baby being affected. In most cases, early detection and treatment will resolve any potential complications.
If untested and/or untreated, sexually transmitted infections in pregnant women could cause problems during pregnancy such as: preterm labor, premature rupture of membranes, and low birth weight. The infant could contract the STI during the pregnancy, during vaginal delivery, or after birth through breastfeeding, such in the case of HIV. Some STIs could have lifelong implications for your child. For these reasons, we strongly encourage women to have STI testing early in their pregnancy and to follow recommended treatment protocol(s).
Women who want to know more about STIs/STDs in pregnancy are welcome to talk to the team at Support Circle. Our caring staff will maintain your confidentiality while addressing your most pressing questions and can provide a list of clinics that provide STI/STD testing. We have three Bay Area clinics in San Francisco, Oakland and Redwood City for your convenience. Call or walk-in today.