Sexual wellness is not a topic of conversation that many people feel eager to explore. It’s pretty easy to figure out why. Yet, adopting a “hear-no-evil, see-no-evil” approach to reproductive health is not a good idea. And expecting mothers positively must make their sexual health a priority. That’s because STDs represent a major threat to pregnant women everywhere. Here, we’ll explain everything that mothers-to-be need to know about STDs, so that they can take the proper steps to protect themselves and their little ones and enjoy a healthy and happy pregnancy. STDs & Fertility As we’ll explain below, STDs can have a big effect on both the health of a mother and a child during and after pregnancy. Yet, first and foremost, some STDs can contribute to infertility. Both chlamydia and gonorrhea are very common bacterial STDs that –– if left untreated –– can lead to a condition known as Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID). PID, in turn, may cause infertility to occur. In addition, some men with STDs may experience genital scarring, which could inhibit their own virility. STD Birth Complications STDs can spread from a mother to their child during birth, or, in some instances, to the fetus while still in utero. Even worse, STDs have been known to cause a variety of pregnancy complications like premature birth, ectopic pregnancy, or miscarraige. In addition, babies born with STDs are at risk for developing eye infections, pneumonia, joint infections, as well as issues with their internal organs. STDs may prove fatal for newborns. STD Transmission STDs are primarily spread through sexual contact –– this includes oral, anal, and vaginal sex. Ejaculation does not have to occur for transmission to happen. Furthermore, one encounter is sufficient to either spread/contract an STD. Note, women who are pregnant can contract an STD during their gestation period. Though STDs are mostly passed through sexual intercourse, there are a few exceptions worth pointing out. First, some STDs can spread through skin-to-skin contact. For instance, it’s possible to contract or spread herpes simply through a kiss. Second, individuals who share needles are at risk for contracting blood-borne STDs –– like certain forms of hepatitis and HIV. Lastly, while condoms are very effective at preventing the spread of STDs, they are not infallible. So it is still possible, though unlikely, to contract an STD despite proper condom usage. On a positive note, it’s almost impossible to contract an STD through casual contact. STDs are not able to exist outside of the human body. You can’t contract an STD from shaking someone’s hand or from using a public bathroom –– despite any urban myths to the contrary. STD Signs and Symptoms A big reason why STDs are so dangerous is that they rarely exhibit obvious symptoms. Indeed, many STDs can remain asymptomatic for weeks, months, or even years at a time. Yet, just because STD symptoms lessen or disappear over time, it doesn’t mean that the STD has “gone away.” Just the opposite is true. What’s more, when STD symptoms do appear, they often bear striking similarities to other medical conditions like acne, yeast infections, or UTIs. As such, it’s possible to misdiagnose or misidentify STD symptoms. Lastly, each STD has symptoms that relate to it specifically. Syphilis, for example, is the only STD to cause rashes to manifest on the palms or soles of feet. In general, though, these symptoms may indicate the presence of an STD:
- Genital discharge.
- Pain during sex.
- Pain during urination.
- Blisters, bumps, or pustules on the genitals.
- Bodily rashes.
- Sore throat.
- Pelvic soreness.
Preventing STDs The only way to completely prevent the spread of STDs is through abstinence. Barring that, condom usage will significantly reduce, but not eliminate, the potential for STD transmission. The best way for couples trying to start a family to ensure that neither has an STD is to visit a nearby medical facility. The good news here is that there are many clinics that allow people to get tested the same day they visit. STD testing is safe, simple, and completely painless. Most tests can be completed in under an hour and most test results are processed and delivered within several days of administration. One last thing to keep in mind: a pap smear is not the same as an STD test. Don’t confuse the two! STD Treatment Medical professionals have made tremendous strides in regard to STD treatment and management over the past few years. Scientists have never been closer to finding a cure for HIV than they are now. In even more good news, many STDs can be cured completely already. Doctors will often test pregnant women for a variety of STDs. Even if a pregnant woman has an STD, early detection can help doctors cure, manage it, or prevent it from affecting the pregnancy.