Navigating pregnancy is difficult enough, but the addition of having a sexually transmitted infection (STI) like chlamydia during pregnancy can add more stress. If you think you may have an STI during your pregnancy, it is crucial that you talk to your healthcare provider and get tested right away. If you think you may have (or have already been diagnosed with chlamydia during your pregnancy), you probably have a lot of questions about how the infection could affect your baby and your prenatal care. Answers to all these questions are presented below!
What is chlamydia, and is it common?
Chlamydia is a bacterial infection and is the most commonly reported bacterial STI. It is often symptomless, making it difficult to diagnose without running tests. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) suggests that all pregnant women be screened at their first prenatal visit, and additionally if any symptoms appear or if risk factors are present.
The CDC estimates that there are 2.86 million infections each year in the USA, with some individuals accounting for multiple cases.
What are the symptoms of chlamydia during pregnancy?
In most cases, there are no symptoms. Some women may experience vaginal discharge and/or pelvic or abdominal pain.
Males usually have pain while urinating and may have a discharge from the penis. If you are pregnant and you notice your partner is experiencing these symptoms, you should both be screened for STIs like chlamydia.
Am I at risk for contracting chlamydia during my pregnancy?
Anyone who is sexually active (outside of a monogamous relationship where you both have not had previous sexual partners) is at risk for contracting chlamydia via vaginal, anal, or oral sex.
You have the highest risk of contracting chlamydia during your pregnancy if you are sexually active and:
- Have multiple sexual partners,
- Have sex without a condom,
- Have had a previous or current STI, and/or
- Have a partner with an STI.
How will chlamydia affect my pregnancy?
The largest risk to the fetus is if the infection goes untreated. The CDC suggests that all pregnant women be tested at the first prenatal appointment.
If you are at a higher risk for contracting STIs during your pregnancy (i.e. have a new sexual partner or multiple partners), an additional test should be done in the third trimester so that treatment can be started before delivery.
If you have an active or untreated chlamydia infection during delivery, the baby has a chance of contracting the infection that will affect the baby in one of two ways: chlamydial conjunctivitis (18-44% of cases) or chlamydial pneumonia (3-16%).
The CDC also states that an active chlamydia infection during pregnancy increases the risk of preterm delivery.
Can my baby get chlamydia from me?
Yes, chlamydia may be spread from mother to child during birth (perinatal transmission).
The best way to prevent passing chlamydia to your baby during birth is to clear the infection before you are due. This is why first and third trimester screenings are so important, as well as reporting any new symptoms to your doctor.
How is chlamydia diagnosed?
Chlamydia may be diagnosed by your healthcare provider using a lab test to assess the secretions from the infected area which may include the cervix, urethra, anus, or throat. The lab may also use a urine sample for testing.
How is chlamydia treated during pregnancy?
Chlamydia may be treated and cured with antibiotics administered orally. This may be either a single dose or a 7-day course. The antibiotics used are typically safe during pregnancy.
If you continue seeing symptoms after a few days into the antibiotic treatment, you should return to your doctor for another evaluation. The CDC suggests that pregnant women who are treated for chlamydia infection should be retested at 3 weeks and 3 months post-treatment since reinfection is somewhat common.
How can I prevent getting chlamydia during pregnancy?
There are only two 100% effective ways to prevent chlamydia. The first is to refrain from sexual contact of any kind. The second is to be in a long-term monogamous relationship such as marriage in which both of you test negative for STIs.
According to the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS), the consistent and correct use of condoms can decrease the risk of contracting chlamydia during vaginal, oral, or anal intercourse by only 60%.
Compiled using information from the following sources:
1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
2. Mayo Clinic
3. Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS)