As STDs continue to rise in the U.S., early prenatal care and STD testing are essential to protect the health of mothers and their babies.
The CDC recommends syphilis testing for all pregnant women the first time they see a healthcare provider about their pregnancy. Women who are vulnerable for acquiring or who live in high-prevalence areas should be tested again early in the third trimester and at delivery.
A CNN article recently published (October 24th, 2019) in response to CDC’s new report on STDs in the U.S. (October 8th, 2019) highlights how women are particularly vulnerable to STD infections and their associated health consequences. We've synthesized the CDC report for you below:
- America is currently facing an epidemic of sexually transmitted infections. When it comes to heterosexual transmission, women are at the higest risk of infection. This can be explained by several factors.
- The delicate lining of the vagina makes it easier for bacteria and viruses to cause an infection. The moist environment of the vagina is also ideal for bacterial growth.
- It may be harder to diagnose an STD infection in women than in men, due to nonspecific symptoms like burning, itching, and discharge that are sometimes misdiagnosed.
- Delayed diagnosis and treatment can then lead to more severe health complications.
- The effects of infections are more severe and damaging for women’s health. For example, the chances of developing cervical cancer from HPV in women are much higher than the chances of developin penile cancer from HPV in men.
- The CDC estimates that individuals aged 15 to 24 acquire half of all new STD cases, and that a quarter of sexually active adolescent girls have an STD. This highlights the vulnerability of young women in getting STD infections.
What are the risks for pregnant women?
- As reported by the CDC, combined cases of syphilis, gonorrhea, and chlamydia reached an all-time high in the U.S. in 2018 (2.4 million combined cases were reported).
- Syphilis, gonorrhea, and chlamydia can be cured by antibiotics. However, if left untreated, STDs can lead to severe health consequences including infertility, ectopic pregnancy, and increased HIV risk.
- This highlights the importance of early prenatal care and STD testing in order to protect mothers and their babies from the dangers of syphilis. The CDC recommends syphilis testing for all pregnant women the first time they see a healthcare provider about their pregnancy.
What to do?
- Know your body and what’s normal and abnormal for you, and speak to your doctor if you notice anything that isn’t normal (unusual vaginal discharge or smell, unexplained genital sores, lumps, or swollen glands in the groin, low abdominal or pelvic pain, change in menstrual patterns).
- Talk openly about STDs, practice safe sex and get tested often.