Our health and the health of our developing babies are intertwined. Taking care of ourselves is vital to the well-being of our little ones, not just during pregnancy, but before and after pregnancy. Our sexual health doesn’t get a free pass on this. Reproductive issues, such as an STD, can have a direct impact on the health of our children.
Sexually transmitted diseases are real. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 3 Americans currently has an STD.
Symptoms that could be signs of an STD include:
- Burning or itching of the genitals
- Pain while urinating
- Blisters or sores in the genital area
- A yellow/green discharge
However, many living with these infections have no idea because the above symptoms may not show up for several months after infection or longer. Someone with an STD may keep passing it on to other people, meanwhile, their own bodies continue to take internal damage that they can’t see on the outside. Because an individual may not be able to tell by their symptoms that they have contracted an STD, it is important to get tested early at a doctor or health clinic to ensure that they are infection-free. Any sexually active person outside of a monogamous relationship (a committed relationship between two people, and one in which both parties have verified that they have not contracted an STD from anyone in the past) should get an STD test.
- Yes. These can be treated with antibiotics prescribed by a doctor. Antibiotics can cure the infection, but will not reverse any of the damage already caused to the body.
How they can affect pregnancy:
- The infections mentioned above, if not properly treated, can cause permanent scarring to the reproductive tract. This increases the likelihood of ectopic pregnancies, miscarriages, and developmental issues for baby.
- If a woman has chlamydia or gonorrhea, it can spread to the baby if left untreated.
- Syphilis can spread to the baby in the uterus, which is why a sexually active woman outside of a monogamous relationship should test early and often in order to treat any STDs she may contract.
- No. Viral infections cannot be cured. Someone who contracts one of these viruses will have it for the rest of their life.
How they affect pregnancy:
- These can also cause serious damage to the reproductive system and to the baby. Again, it is important to test early and often and to let your doctor know so that they can help you form the best plan for taking care of your baby. This may include having a C-section in order to prevent the infection from spreading to baby vaginally.
Preventing an STD
The best way to take care of our own sexual health, as well as the health of our future partners and children, is to not have sex outside of a lifelong relationship like marriage. Anyone choosing to be sexually active before marriage should consider the risks and discuss past history with their partner. Condoms reduce the risk of contracting an STD by about 85%. This, of course, is better than using no protection but still leaves a 15% chance of passing on one of these life-altering diseases. And again, testing early and often and following doctor’s orders exactly can help prevent damage.
Want to learn more about how you can take care of yourself and your baby? You may be interested in Lifeline Pregnancy Help Clinic’s confidential, no-cost services. We do not test for sexually transmitted diseases, but we can refer you to testing locations as well as provide you with the education and supplies you need for your family. Click here to find out more about Lifeline’s Earn While You Learn program, or call 660-665-5688.