Sexually Transmitted Diseases - Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are of particular concern to pregnant women. STDs are infectious diseases spread through sexual contact with an infected person. This person may have few or no symptoms and may not realize they are infected. A women can pass a sexually transmitted disease on to her baby at various times, including during pregnancy, while giving birth, or when breast feeding.
Vaginal Infections - The vagina normally contains harmless bacteria. In pregnancy, however, hormonal changes can alter vaginal secretions and leave the vagina susceptible to infection. Three of these include:
Gonorrhea - Maternal symptoms of gonorrhea are varied, ranging from none to some yellow vaginal discharge or abnormal vaginal bleeding. The gonorrhea infection is passed on to a baby during birth and causes an eye infection that could lead to blindness.
Syphilis - A blood test is done early in pregnancy and may be repeated just before delivery to determine possible infection with syphilis (since many women with the disease will have no symptoms). Nearly 100% of babies of syphilis-infected mothers develop the disease, and symptoms can appear at birth or months or years later. These babies can suffer vision damage or loss, dental and bone deformities, brain damage, and even death.
Genital Warts - This infection, whose clinical name is Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), is common in pregnancy and may be located in the vulva, vagina, or cervix. Because of hormone changes that occur during pregnancy, warts develop and can grow in size and number, bleed, or make delivery more difficult (Cesarean section is often recommended if warts are present in the birth canal). In a few instances, babies exposed to HPV during birth may develop warts in their eyes or throats, causing vision, vocal, or respiratory problems.
Genital Herpes - Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV) Type II often exhibits no symptoms when dormant (inactive), but painful blisters or bumps may develop near or inside the vagina or rectum during an outbreak. There is no cure for Herpes II and symptoms may recur again and again. Babies most often acquire this infection at delivery, causing painful blisters on the skin, and damage to eyes, other internal organs, and the brain (leading to mental retardation). If it is suspected you have active herpes lesions, Cesarean birth is most often advised to avoid exposing the baby to the infection.