Q: “Should I be screened for Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs)when I’m pregnant?”
A: Absolutely. Getting tested for STDs is an important part of prenatal care. Many women with STDs do not have symptoms or don’t recognize they are infected, and laboratory testing is the only way to detect them. Screening for these infections is important, because if they are not diagnosed and not treated, they can have potentially serious consequences for your pregnancy or result in infection of your newborn child.
Two of the most common STDs, chlamydia and gonorrhea, are especially worrisome. If left untreated, chlamydia and gonorrhea can cause you to go into labor early or reduce your chance to get pregnant in the future. Chlamydia and gonorrhea can also be passed from an infected mother to her baby during vaginal childbirth, and may result in your newborn having serious eye infections, pneumonia, or other complications.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all pregnant women be screened for chlamydia. The CDC also recommends that all women under age 25 be screened for gonorrhea. Testing for chlamydia and gonorrhea is something your obstetrician can do at your first pre-natal visit.
Testing for these infections is easy. But a recent study by scientists at Quest Diagnostics and Rutgers University found that many pregnant women are not tested for chlamydia and gonorrhea despite current recommendations. The study, which analyzed testing of 1.3 million pregnant women in the United States, and was published in the July issue of the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, found that 2 out of every 5 pregnant women were never tested during pregnancy. Younger pregnant women had the highest rates of chlamydia infection, but even older women were at risk for these infections. The study also found some women tested positive for one of these infections following a negative test, suggesting they were infected during pregnancy.
If you are found to have chlamydia or gonorrhea, the treatment is simple and may consist of a single dose of an antibiotic. Re-testing three weeks after starting the medication is recommended for chlamydia infection to make sure the medication worked. The CDC also recommends that all women age 25 or younger be re-tested for chlamydia during the third trimester to make sure they are not infected when the baby is born.
You should not feel embarrassed about getting tested for STDs, even if you are in a committed relationship. And if you think you may be at risk for an STD, you should make sure your doctor tests you. The goal is to make sure you and your unborn child are and stay healthy.
- Jay M. Lieberman, M.D., medical director, infectious diseases, Quest Diagnostics.