Trichomoniasis [trik-uh-muh-naya-sis], or “trich,” is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) spread through skin-to-skin contact during sexual activities. The infection is treatable and can be cured with antibiotics. It is caused by the microscopic parasite Trichomonas vaginalis. This STI is the most common curable one among young women who are sexually active, meaning that trichomoniasis during pregnancy can be common. It can affect a woman’s pregnancy by increasing her chances for a pre-term delivery or the baby having a low birth weight. Although rare, there is the chance that the infection could be passed to the baby during birth.
What are the symptoms of trichomoniasis?
Though most women who have trichomoniasis do not show any signs, some possible symptoms include:
- Itching or burning sensation in the genitals
- Soreness or redness of the genitals
- Burning sensation during urination
- The unpleasant feeling during sexual intercourse
- Change in vaginal discharge with a foul odor (color can be white, gray, yellow, or greenish)
Symptoms may come and go and can show up as early as 5 to 28 days after sexual contact. Symptoms can range from mild to severe. Call your doctor if you experience any of these symptoms during your pregnancy.
Can trichomoniasis lead to other problems?
Yes, it can. Without proper treatment, a trichomoniasis infection can make you more susceptible to getting or transmitting other STIs, such as HIV (the virus that leads to AIDS). This is especially true if you are experiencing symptoms of trichomoniasis.
How is trichomoniasis transmitted?
Trichomoniasis is passed along through skin-to-skin contact during sexual acts such as vaginal, anal, or oral sex. This means that a condom may not protect a person completely since the parasite may be on parts of the skin that are not protected by a condom.
If you have the infection but do not have symptoms, you can still pass it on to your sexual partners or your baby at birth.
Am I at risk for contracting trichomoniasis during my pregnancy?
You are at a higher risk for contracting trichomoniasis if you:
- know that your partner is infected
- have multiple sexual partners
- have sex without condoms
- have/had other STIs, or
- have had a previous trichomoniasis infection.
Young, sexually active women under 25 years old have the highest rates of trichomoniasis infections.
If any of the above apply to you during your pregnancy, talk to your doctor to discuss screening and prevention techniques.
How can trichomoniasis affect my pregnancy?
If a trichomoniasis infection is left untreated during pregnancy, it can increase a woman’s chances of pre-term delivery and low birth weight. Both of these can affect the baby’s development, overall health, and time spent in the hospital after birth.
There is also a chance that the infection could be transmitted to the baby during vaginal birth. This is, however, very rare, and the infant will be treated with antibiotics to clear the infection. Other adverse outcomes are possible if the infection is left untreated.
How is trichomoniasis diagnosed?
Trichomoniasis cannot be diagnosed from symptoms alone. You will need an exam from your doctor and a laboratory test to check for the presence of the parasite.
How is trichomoniasis treated during pregnancy?
The treatment for trichomoniasis is a large single dose of antibiotics, typically metronidazole or tinidazole. Common brand names for these are Flagyl or Tindamax.
If both you and your partner test positive, it is suggested that both of you undergo the antibiotic treatment at the same time. This is important if you want to avoid passing it back and forth.
Getting treatment as soon as you learn you have trichomoniasis or notice symptoms of the infection is important, especially during pregnancy. This can reduce any adverse outcomes (mentioned above) that can come from a trichomoniasis infection during pregnancy.
How can I avoid passing it to my baby at birth?
The way to prevent passing the infection to your baby at birth is to undergo screenings during pregnancy if you are at risk of contracting trichomoniasis. Then, you should undergo treatment as soon as possible after a positive diagnosis. If the infection clears before you go into labor, then the risk of transmission during birth is no longer there.
It is good to keep in mind that even though the infection is very common, it is rare that it is passed on to a baby during birth, and is usually easily treatable in the infant.
Can trichomoniasis be prevented?
There are only two effective ways to prevent trichomoniasis. 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 with someone who is not infected. It is extremely rare that casual contact (no sexual contact) can transfer the parasite.
Since this STI can be spread through skin-to-skin contact and does not require the sharing of bodily fluids, condoms are not a reliable method for preventing infection. The correct and consistent use of condoms may only help reduce the chance of passing on or contracting trichomoniasis.
Want to Know More?
Compiled using information from the following sources:
1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – Trichomoniasis Fact Sheet.
2. Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS) – STD Fact Sheets.
3. Mayo Clinic – Diseases and Conditions: Trichomoniasis.