STDs and the Risk of Miscarriages and Other Pregnancy Problems

How to Manage STDs During Pregnancy to Limit the Risks to Your Baby

Having a sexually transmitted disease (STD) during pregnancy can bring an increased risk of miscarriage, preterm delivery and many other problems. Without treatment, you may also pass an infection on to your baby in the womb or during labor. The exact risk varies by the type of STD and how under control it is during the pregnancy, along with other factors.

If you have an STD - or if you're worried that you might - it's a good idea to talk to a healthcare provider. With the proper treatment, STDs can be managed during pregnancy to reduce or eliminate the risks.

Read on to learn about the effects of different STDs on pregnancy risks.

Syphilis and the Risk of Miscarriage

Doctor Checking Position of Pregnant Woman's Baby
Keith Brofsky/Photodisc/Getty Images

All women should be tested for syphilis during pregnancy because it can have very serious outcomes on the pregnancy and the baby. Syphilis increases the risk of:

  • miscarriage
  • stillbirth
  • the baby's death soon after it is born

Pregnant women with syphilis are treated with penicillin to prevent mother-to-child transmission of this STD.

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HIV and Pregnancy

In the past, an expectant mother with HIV had a big risk of transmitting the virus to her baby during pregnancy or labor. But with today's highly effective drugs, HIV-positive women who are being properly treated have an excellent chance of experiencing a healthy pregnancy with low odds of passing the virus to the baby.

All women should be tested for HIV in early pregnancy regardless of whether they have risk factors. Pregnancy outcomes are best if a woman's HIV is well-controlled with antiviral medications while she's carrying her baby.

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Viral Hepatitis

The risk of viral hepatitis during pregnancy varies by the type of hepatitis. The viral strains common in the U.S. do not increase risk of miscarriage, but viral hepatitis in the mother can pose risks for the baby if it becomes infected in the womb or during labor.

Hepatitis B and, much less commonly, hepatitis C can be passed from mother to baby during pregnancy. Because of serious health concerns, all newborns should be vaccinated against hepatitis B, regardless of whether or not the mother is known to be infected. Babies born to mothers with hepatitis B must get the vaccine within 12 hours of birth, along with a treatment called immune globulin, to prevent a chronic hepatitis infection.

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Herpes

Genital herpes carries a risk of:

  • miscarriage
  • premature birth

The baby can also acquire it from the mother, especially if she contracts the virus during pregnancy or if active lesions are present at birth and the baby is delivered vaginally.

If you have genital herpes, you may be prescribed an antiviral medication called Zovirax® Injection (acycloguanosine) during your last month of pregnancy to prevent an outbreak around the time your baby will be born. Mothers with active lesions often need to deliver by c-section.

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Bacterial Vaginosis

Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is an infection of the vagina caused by an overgrowth of certain types of bacteria. It is not strictly a STD, but it is associated with having multiple sex partners or having a new partner. (It also ups the chances of contracting certain STDs.) BV increases the risk of:

  • premature birth
  • low birth-weight babies

Fortunately, BV is easily treated in pregnancy with antibiotics. BV is not part of normal prenatal testing, so tell you doctor if you might have symptoms.

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Gonorrhea

Untreated gonorrhea increases the risk of several problems in pregnancy:

If it's passed to the baby during birth, gonorrhea can result in dangerous infections.

Your doctor will check you for gonorrhea during an early prenatal visit. Antibiotics can resolve the infection.

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