Understanding the Influence of STIs on Pregnancy

Jun 13, 2024

Primary Care

Understanding the Influence of STIs on Pregnancy

The journey of pregnancy is often filled with excitement and anticipation. But what if it is connected with STIs (Sexually Transmitted Infections)? STIs and pregnancy are intimately linked with adverse impacts on both maternal and fetal health. This connection underscores the importance of comprehensive sex education, routine screenings, and timely intervention.

Continue reading to get a thorough understanding of STIs, their causes, types, symptoms, potential impacts on pregnancy, diagnosis, treatment, and preventive measures. 

Understanding Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI)

STI or Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs), is a prevalent health concern worldwide, affecting millions of individuals, including pregnant women. STI encompasses a diverse range of infections transmitted through unprotected sexual contact, including bacterial, viral, and parasitic pathogens. Common examples of STIs may typically include HIV/AIDS, gonorrhea, hepatitis B, syphilis, etc. 

Causes of STIs

Though STIs spread through intimate contact with an infected partner, the main culprits are the microorganisms, which may include:

  • Bacteria: Chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis are common bacteria that multiply rapidly and affect the genital area, rectum, or throat.
  • Viruses: Usually smaller than bacteria and unable to reproduce independently, viruses invade human cells and make copies of themselves. HIV, HSV (Herpes Simplex Virus), and HPV (Human Papillomavirus) are common viral STIs.
  • Parasites: Trichomonas, a common parasite that can affect the urinary tract or genitals, leading to vaginal discharge and itching.

Different Types of STIs

STIs are classified based on their cause and routes of transmission. Here's a breakdown of the most common types:

  • Chlamydia: Affects both males and females, but primarily women, by permanently causing damage to their reproductive system.
  • Genital Herpes: Caused by the HSV virus, affecting the skin, cervix, and genitals, which may even lead to oral herpes.
  • Hepatitis B: It is primarily a viral infection that attacks the liver, thus leading to both acute and chronic diseases.
  • HIV: A virus that affects the body's immune system, making people more vulnerable to other diseases.
  • Human Papillomavirus (HPV): A group of viruses that affects skin and mucous membranes such as the throat, cervix, anus, and mouth.
  • Syphilis: It can stay in the body, causing long-term problems that affect the eyes, heart, and other organs.

Other infections linked with sexual contact include:

  • Hepatitis A
  • Thrush
  • Bacterial Vaginosis
  • Pubic Lice
  • Scabies

Symptoms of STIs

While each STI has unique characteristics and symptoms, they share the potential to impact individuals or pregnant women directly or indirectly. 

Depending on the type of infection, common symptoms of STIs may include:

  • An unusual discharge from the vagina, penis, or anus
  • Pain, itching, or burning while urinating
  • Rash on genitals, palm, or other body parts
  • Pain or bleeding during or after sex
  • Lumps or sores on the genitals, mouth, or throat
  • Symptoms like fever, headache, and fatigue
  • Lower abdominal pain in females
  • Testicular pain in males

How do STIs Affect Pregnancy?

When it comes to pregnancy, STIs can pose various risks and complications depending on the pregnancy period. However, pregnancy itself doesn't cause STIs. Having an existing STI can lead to complications for both mother and child. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimated that more than 1 million pregnant women were infected with STIs, resulting in adverse birth outcomes.

Potential risks associated with STIs during pregnancy may include:

Risks for Mother

  • Pregnancy Complications: STI during pregnancy causes inflammation in reproductive organs, leading to complications like miscarriages.
  • Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID): Untreated STIs tend to cause pelvic pain, impacting future fertility.
  • Postpartum Infections: Recovery after childbirth is hindered by elevating the risks of infection.

Risks for the Baby

  • Premature or Low Birth Rate: STIs disrupt the pregnancy environment, which results in premature and low birth weight.
  • Birth Defects: STIs can transfer from the mother to the baby, causing severe congenital disabilities like bone deformities, cleft lip, or heart defects.
  • Neonatal Infections: Babies who are infected during childbirth or breastfeeding can be born with blindness, deafness, or other health problems.

Diagnosis and Treatment for STIs 

STI diagnosis typically involves a series of tests, including medical history, physical examination, and lab tests such as blood tests, urine tests, or fluid samples from the genitals. 

Specific screening tests are also recommended for different individuals, which may include:

  • For Every Individual: Saliva test to detect HIV/AIDS for every one of the 15-65 years of age.
  • For Pregnant Women: Hepatitis B and C tests are suggested during pregnancy.
  • Women Above 21 Years: Pap tests are done for any abnormal cells in the cervix.

On the other hand, STI treatment mainly depends on the type of infection. Infections transmitted through bacteria are generally easy to treat, whereas those caused by viruses can be managed but not fully cured. People with STIs are commonly treated using Antibiotics and Antiviral drugs.

However, considering the importance of early detection and treatment is crucial, especially for those who are sexually active or planning for pregnancy.

Preventing the Risk of STIs

The most effective way to prevent STIs is by practicing safer sex and taking proactive measures to reduce the risk of STIs. 

Here are some of the key strategies:

  • Using Contraceptive Sheaths (Condoms) and Dental Dams: Using contraceptive sheaths made of latex or polyurethane and dental dams prevents the transfer of infection, whether oral, vaginal, or anal.
  • Communication: Discuss sexual history and any health concerns related to STIs with your partner.
  • Get Vaccinated: Vaccines are available for certain STIs like HPV, hepatitis A, and hepatitis B, thus preventing its transmission.
  • Limiting Sexual Partners: Staying in a long-term relationship with an uninfected person reduces your risk of exposure.

Final Takeaway

STIs are common health concerns with implications for individual health and pregnancy outcomes. However, you can significantly reduce the risk with proper knowledge and practices. If you suspect or get diagnosed with STI, do not hesitate to consult a doctor. With early diagnosis and treatment, you can prevent serious health concerns and protect your sexual partner, fulfilling your sexual life.

Take Care of Your Reproductive Health with MI Express Primary Care

At MI Express Primary Care in Ann Arbor & Canton MI, we provide fast and effective treatment options for STIs and pregnancy. We understand the importance of addressing STIs and providing specialized care and treatment for your well-being. We offer a wide range of women’s health services for all ages.

Contact us today if you are concerned about STIs and want assistance living a healthy, stress-free life.

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