Sexual contact is one of the main methods of transmission of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) or sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Mostly associated with vaginal, oral, or anal sex involved. However, occasionally they can be transmitted through other close physical contacts.
Several sexually transmitted diseases, such as herpes and HPV, may be transferred via physical skin-to-skin contact. Generally, STDs are caused by a varied number of pathogens, cumulative of which may be bacteria, viruses, and parasites.
Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) have become a major worldwide health concern. The question comes, can you be born with an STD? While they are typically associated with sexual activity such as oral sex, anal sex, or unprotected sex with a person who already has STDs. A baby can be born with an STD. This occurs when an infected mother transmits the disease to her baby during pregnancy, childbirth, or breastfeeding.
Some of the most common STDs that can be passed from mother to baby include syphilis, herpes, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), and hepatitis B virus.
1. What Are the Symptoms of Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs)?
Many sexually transmitted infection carriers don’t exhibit any symptoms until they test positive. They might not be aware of it until issues arise or a spouse is diagnosed. On the other hand, people experience symptoms like:
- Rash on the body, hands, or feet
- mouth sores or bumps on the genitals
- rectal area discomfort when peeing
- unusual vaginal bleeding or blood infections
- pain during sex
- swollen lymph nodes, especially in the groin
Even while you may not necessarily have sexually transmitted infections if you experience one or more of these symptoms, it is still advisable to visit your doctor for a checkup
2. How STIs Affect Pregnancy
When it comes to the effect on pregnancy, the question in concern is “can you be born with an std?” Well, STIs can have an impact on both your pregnancy causing pregnancy complications and your ability to conceive (fertility). An STI infection during pregnancy can have major negative effects on both the mother and the unborn child.
Even if already undergoing an STI test, it is advised that it is so again if pregnant or want to get pregnant. Receiving treatment as soon as possible if tested positive for STI while pregnant can lower the risks. Even if the STI is incurable, there are steps taken to safeguard it.
3. Can You Be Born With an STD?
- Some STDs can be transferable i.e. they can be carried on from a pregnant mother to the fetus both before and after delivery.
- Some STIs, like syphilis, pass through the placenta of the infected person and infect the unborn child.
- Other STDs, can also be transferred from mother to fetus during delivery such as gonorrhea, chlamydia, hepatitis B, and genital herpes.
- During pregnancy, HIV infection can pass through the placenta and infect the unborn child
4. How Can the Fetus Be Affected Due to STD?
The baby may suffer from congenital abnormalities such as
- deafness or other organ damage
- congenital abnormalities such as stillbirth
- low birth weight
- conjunctivitis (eye infection)
- neonatal sepsis (infection in the bloodstream)
- acute hepatitis
- chronic liver disease
Some of these effects might be noticeable at birth, while others might not be noticed for months or even years.
5. Testing of STD
5.1. Chlamydia and Gonorrhea
Pregnancy-related gonorrhea may increase the risk of preterm, early membrane rupture, fetal losses, delayed intrauterine growth, and fever in the puerperium. There is a chance of developing postpartum bartholinitis, peri-hepatitis, arthritis, endocarditis, and endometritis. Infertility affects about 25% of women who have gonorrhea or chlamydia.
Conjunctivitis, atypical interstitial pneumonitis, bronchitis, and otitis media are among the complications that might affect newborns.
Using a urine test or swab is used by healthcare professionals to check people for STDs such as chlamydia and gonorrhea. In the case of women, swab samples are obtained from the cervix, and in the case of men from the penis. After that, it is examined in a laboratory.
When left untreated, the infectious disease syphilis is thought to be systemic from the very beginning, with a chronic progression and the potential to transform from acute breakouts to latent periods. It can be transmitted by blood transfusions, sexual contact, and other unusual methods such as contaminated objects and tattoos (acquired syphilis) or vertically (congenital syphilis).
Pregnancy-related syphilis can result in miscarriage, premature birth, neonatal mortality, or the development of the disease in the newborn (early and late congenital syphilis). Congenital syphilis is quite severe because of the extensive transplacental infection.
Your doctor will either draw blood from you or swab any genital sores you may have to test you for syphilis. In a lab, a lab expert examines the sample. Additionally, your healthcare provider draws blood to screen for hepatitis and HIV.
5.3 Genital Herpes
In addition to being primarily sexually transmitted, genital herpes can also spread through orogenital contact. Because HPV causes a significant number of cases of HIV transmission, it has become more well-known as a cause of genital ulcers in recent years.
Congenital herpes, neonatal herpes, microcephaly, impaired intrauterine growth, and fetal mortality are all possible outcomes of maternal primary infection. Although transplacental transmission is possible, fetal contamination through the birth canal is more common, which can cause neonatal herpes, a condition with a high morbidity rate.
Pregnant women with herpetic lesions should have treatment, especially if they have a peak infection during any trimester. It is little known as it may not show any symptoms until the individual gets tested. Acyclovir is the most commonly used medication. other medications such as famciclovir, valacyclovir, or acyclovir are safe to use during pregnancy but have little evidence of the extent of effect it has.
Some authors advise having a c-section done on pregnant women who have clinical lesions when giving birth. Others point to the usage, as previously indicated, of systemic antiviral medications at the time of delivery or before labor. Others still advise using both strategies. Virus-exposed newborns must be quarantined in the nursery.
5.4 Hepatitis B
The viral infection HBV damages the liver.
During pregnancy, a pregnant woman can transmit HBV to the fetus, according to the CDC Trusted Source. If the person contracts the infection nearer the due date, there is a greater chance of transmission.
Infants who contract HBV are more likely to develop liver cancer or chronic liver disease. 25% of infants with a persistent HBV infection will eventually pass away from chronic liver disease.
If they have a high risk of contracting an STI, older adults or younger teens should be tested. If you have a high risk of infection, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends getting tested for HIV at least once a year.
Hepatitis C screening is advised by national guidelines for all persons ages 18 to 79. Hepatitis A and B vaccines are available and are often administered at birth. Adults who have never received a vaccination but are at a high risk of contracting hepatitis A or B can get one.
It is characterized by vaginal discharge and symptoms such as inflammation or infection of the vulva, vagina, and ectocervix.
Symptoms of vulvar pruritus are dyspareunia, dysuria, and pelvic discomfort might occasionally be absent altogether. By altering the non-pathological vaginal flora, several variables or aggressive agents may favor the development of vulvovaginitis. Immunodepression is one of them, along with endogenous infectious agents, trauma, the use of tampons and pads, sexual transmission agents, hormone and anatomical changes, and others.
Numerous negative pregnancy outcomes, including early amniotic membrane rupture, chorioamnionitis, early labor, postpartum endometritis, intra-amniotic infection, and low birth weight have been linked to bacterial vaginosis.
Therefore, it is important to treat not only those pregnant women who are symptomatic but also those who are asymptomatic but have a high risk of giving birth prematurely. Oral metronidazole 250 mg three times a day for seven days might be used as a treatment.
6. STIs and Breastfeeding
- While certain STIs prevent breastfeeding, others do not, Here are some broad suggestions, but for information tailored to your condition, speak with your doctor, nurse, or lactation consultant:
- Do not breastfeed if you are HIV positive. Using a breastmilk substitute like formula is advised in nations like the US where clean water is accessible.
- You can nurse your child even if you have chlamydia, gonorrhea, or HPV.
- The medication metronidazole is safe to use if you have trichomoniasis and are breastfeeding. You may need to wait 12 to 24 hours after taking the drug if you intend to breastfeed.
- If you have herpes or syphilis, you can still breastfeed if neither your baby nor the pumping device contacts a sore. Herpes or syphilis can infect any part of your breast, including your nipple and areola. Pump or manually express your milk up until the breast blisters have healed.
- By pumping and keeping your breasts from getting too bloated and painful, you can maintain your milk production.
- You can store your baby’s milk in a bottle for later feeding. If, however, any portion of your breast pump happens to come into contact with the sore(s) while you are pumping, you should throw the milk away.
7. STI Treatment During Pregnancy
Depending on how far along in your pregnancy you are and how far along the infection has progressed, an STD’s course changes during pregnancy. Many bacterial STDs, including syphilis, gonorrhea, and chlamydia, are treated with antibiotics either intravenously or orally. For STDs, the following treatments are suggested:
Among other low levels, drugs can reduce HIV’s viral load to an undetectable level. You can prevent the virus from spreading to your unborn child by taking a variety of medications.
Your doctor may give antiviral medications as a precaution. Women who have active herpes lesions at the time of delivery will probably have a C-section to prevent transmitting the virus to the unborn child.
Pregnant women’s infections can be treated with antibiotics. To avoid gonorrhea eye infections because gonorrhea frequently has no symptoms, all newborns receive eye medications at birth.
The diseased, and others are treated with antibiotics by doctors. The medication given to all babies to stop gonorrhea eye infections also stops chlamydia, but it cannot stop pneumonia, which could later occur. You should still be retested within 3 months to ensure that the infection has completely vanished, even if your partner has received treatment.
To avoid conjunctivitis caused by a mother’s chlamydia infection, which can result in blindness if untreated, ointment is now frequently applied to babies’ eyes.
7.5 Hepatitis B and Syphilis
Your doctor will administer antibodies to your infant via injection if you have the condition to prevent them from getting it. Throughout your pregnancy, your doctor will give treatments to decrease the possibility that the infection will be passed to your unborn child and to stop your syphilis from growing worse.
Medications may be administered to treat the infection in pregnant women. It is recommended that you both receive treatment at the same time to prevent reinfection. Three months after your initial test, even if your partner had treatment, you should retest to ensure that the infection has been eradicated.
You must take all your medication if an antibiotic is prescribed to treat an STD, even if the symptoms go. Never, ever treat your illness with someone else’s prescription drugs. By doing this, you can make the infection more difficult to treat. In the same way, you shouldn’t offer your medication to anyone else.
8. How To Prevent Getting a Sexually Transmitted Infection
Here are some fundamental precautions you may take to avoid getting an STI:
8.1 Limiting Your Sex Partners
Abstaining from sex altogether is a sure way of protecting oneself from ever getting an STD.
For an individual having multiple sexual patterns, the risk of getting an STI increases. Do not have too many sexual partners. It is advisable to use a latex condom during each intercourse. Also, use a water-based lubricant if required. Maintain monogamy. Having sex with just one person is what this signifies.
8.2 Getting Tested
Check yourself for STDs. Don’t take a chance on infecting someone else or your child. It does not follow that you cannot develop an STD later on in your pregnancy just because you had an early pregnancy STD screening. It is also required that the individual is screened for other STI tests if they had unprotected sex with more than one partner. Additionally, if you suspect your partner of engaging in unprotected intercourse with others, you should be worried.
Certain STIs can be avoided by getting vaccinated early on, before sexual contact. The HPV vaccine can be given as early as age 9, although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends it for girls and boys between the ages of 11 and 12. The CDC advises taking the vaccine up until age 26 if you weren’t fully immunized by the time you were 11 or 12.
Newborns often receive the hepatitis B vaccine, and children under the age of one are advised to receive the hepatitis A vaccine. Both vaccinations are advised for those who are at increased risk of infection, including males who have sex with men, as well as for those who aren’t already immune to these diseases.
8.4 Use Protection
For every sexual act, whether oral, vaginal, or anal, use a fresh latex condom or dental dam. Never choose latex condoms that have oil-based lubricant.
The natural membrane of condoms is not advised as they might be ineffective when it comes to the prevention of STIs. Also, bear in mind that while latex condoms lower your chance of exposure to the majority of STIs, they offer less defense against STIs like HPV or herpes that involve open genital sores.
Additionally, non-barrier methods of contraception such as intrauterine devices (IUDs) and birth control pills do not offer STI protection.
8.5 No Drugs or Alcohol and Use of Communication
The chances to take part in sexual activity in higher if under the influence of drugs or alcohol. It is also essential that there is communication between the two parties involved in the sexual activity and that the act is consensual for both parties.
Finally, it should be noted that an STD can be present at birth, which can have negative effects. The danger of transmission can be reduced, and both the mother’s and the baby’s health can be safeguarded, through routine testing and quick treatment.
To lessen the effects of this severe public health issue, women must take the appropriate precautions to safeguard their health and the health of their unborn children. Moreover, society must give the fight against STDs a top priority. Discover some further crucial STD information.As an Amazon Associate, Icy Health earns from qualifying purchases.