Pregnancy and Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) - What Do I Need to Know?

>> Wednesday, March 20, 2013

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This week I want to answer concerns regarding complications of STI's (Sexually Transmitted Infections) in pregnancy. Pregnancy brings on many changes, and causes most of us to worry about our diet, exercise and everything that touches our bodies. So finding out about an STI can be especially concerning to women.

In fact, what may seem like an STI may not be. Pregnancy changes your body so quickly that you may notice an increase in vaginal moisture & discharge, irritation or even a different odor than you're used to. Of course you may worry that something is very wrong.

During your first or second prenatal visit, your OB doctor will do several tests on you, including vaginal cultures and blood tests for the most common STI/STD's. This list may include: HPV (human papilloma virus)bacterial vaginosis (BV), herpes (HSV), chlamydia, trichomoniasis, gonorrhea(GC), hepatitis B, HIV and Syphillis. Often herpes is left off the prenatal panel, but it can be requested as an add on. This is because most women are already aware of having had an outbreak, so they have already been diagnosed. Herpes will generally only interfere with pregnancy if lesions appear at the time of delivery, and in that case a cesarean section would likely be performed.

Women who are pregnant can become infected with the same sexually transmitted diseases as women who are not pregnant. Pregnancy does not provide any protection for women or their babies. But, during pregnancy a woman's immune system has a harder time fighting off infection. The only way to be sure you are protected is to use latex condoms with each act of intercourse, unless you are sure you are in a monogamous relationship with a partner with no STI’s.

Women can become infected with an STI like herpes, HPV and condyloma, years before they meet their current sexual partner. When they become pregnant and their immune system is weaker, they can begin having herpes outbreaks, condyloma overgrowth and abnormal pap smears due to HPV infection, without ever being aware they were carrying these viruses. It can be very shocking to wake up with clusters of warts growing around the vaginal, labial and anal areas, or to find red, hot herpes blisters having never been aware you were harboring a virus. But remember, this does not necessarily mean your partner is being unfaithful.

Best,
Dr. Susan
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