Are Newborns Tested For STDs?

Are Newborns Tested For STDs

A newborn baby has high possibility of being infected if the mother has an STD or STI and if diagnosed they need to be treated with utmost urgency to avoid serious complications from arising in the future.

Are all babies tested for STDs? Routine evaluation of newborn babies includes a number of different tests like blood test, hearing screening and heart screening. The blood test can definitely give indication of any STD or STI which can be transmitted from the mother to the child during the period of pregnancy. So, if the mother is known to have been affected, the baby will definitely be tested for STDs else the tests would just include the normal newborn screening list.

Newborns And STDs

An ST infection before or during pregnancy can affect your baby with serious health risks but there are also cases where the newborn can remain unaffected by the mother’s condition. The mother may be infected even before she conceives or can get the infection transmitted during the period of her pregnancy either causing equal danger for the fetus. The baby can be affected by the infection before birth or after birth through breastfeeding. Once a trace of indication is seen, we should make sure that follow up tests are conducted and necessary precautions are taken to avoid future health issues for the child.

How Important Is Testing For STD In Pregnant Women?

In the first prenatal observation itself, the mother needs to be checked for STDs/STIs. The baby is at great risk if the mother’s condition remains unnoticed and unattended. So, make sure necessary tests and treatments are not avoided. The first prenatal visit will include the test for HIV, syphilis, Hepatitis B and chlamydia. During the period of pregnancy, make sure the others like Gonorrhea is tested. The mother should make sure that any details of high-risk sexual activity is made known her doctor. Asymptomatic STDs can be identified by vigilant tests during the pregnancy.

"Remember, two lives are hanging by one thread, a little negligence can cost both!"

What Are The Common STDs? Their Effects And Treatments

Each STD/STI is treated differently. Let’s take a look at some:

  • HIV: The risk of HIV being passed to the infant during labor, vaginal delivery or pregnancy is high; but if we can reduce the risk of transmission during the early stages of pregnancy. If the virus is left unattended there is 25% chance for it to be transmitted to the child but even if it is there is only a 2% drop in the chance of transmission. Several medications are taken to avoid this transmission.
  • SYPHILIS: Miscarriage and stillbirth are the common effects of syphilis during pregnancy. It can be transmitted through two ways either from the placenta to the fetus or when the baby is in the birth canal. Its risk of transmission to the baby and progression in the mother can be prevented by using antibiotics. If this is left untreated the infant is left with the risk of having dangerous health issues like multiple organs.
  • GONORRHEA: Premature birth or rupture of the membranes, low birth weight, etc. are the various effects of gonorrhea. In addition to these, eye infections are a common result in babies born to women who suffer from Gonorrhea during their pregnancy. It is normally transmitted to the fetus during vaginal delivery. Even in this case, antibiotics are prescribed for the expecting mother. Gonorrhea does not have any symptoms and therefore riskier.
  • HERPES: Genital herpes remain harmless during the period of pregnancy but the risk arises when the delivery/childbirth is underwent. In a mother who is already infected, active genital lesions during childbirth can be of huge risk. This is because the baby will be affected by the highly contagious virus. Doctors generally prescribe antiviral pills to treat these lesions.
  • HEPATITIS B: If a woman gets infected with Hepatitis B, close to her delivery there is a greater chance for the baby to be affected and this can happen about 40% of the time through the placenta. The newborn can develop a liver disease which can sometimes be incurable. An early detection in the mother and the injection of antibodies to the newborn can reduce the risk.
  • CHLAMYDIA: In pregnant women, chlamydia causes premature rupture of membranes, preterm birth and low birth weight for the baby while in the infant, it leads to eye infections or even pneumonia. The transmission of this bacterial infection normally occurs during vaginal delivery. This is also treated with prescribed antibiotics, during pregnancy. 
  • HPV(Genital warts): Genital warts are treated only with a delay if the infection has happened during the period of pregnancy. The mother is treated after the baby is delivered. The transmission of this disease to the infants are less likely to happen, but if affected the child will be suffering from throat tumors. These can be surgically removed but has a chance of coming back.
  • TRICHOMONIASIS: This STD increases the risk of a preterm delivery. Besides this the presence of trich organism can increase the risk of being HIV positive if exposed to it. Just like HPV this is less likely to be transmitted to the infant and even in the case of transmission, antibiotics are prescribed. The chance of transmission is mostly through the vaginal fluid.

Even After The Newborn Screening, Can The Baby Be Affected From The Mother?

Yes. Breastfeeding can cause the transmission of STDs but not in all cases.

  • In case of HIV, do not breastfeed. You can pass the virus to your baby. Feed your baby with the formula in clean water.
  • In case of chlamydia, gonorrhea, or HPV, you can breastfeed your baby.
  • In case of syphilis or herpes, you can breastfeed making sure that your baby or pumping equipment does not touch a sore. Syphilis can spread to any part of your breast very easily.

What Measures Are To Be Taken To Ensure Prevention Of STIs During Pregnancy?

  • Uninfected Partner: Your choice of partners are the major and most important measure to stay clear of an infection during pregnancy. Make sure your partner is uninfected and perfectly healthy.
  • Using condoms and necessary precautions: Use latex condoms and not natural membrane condoms for effective prevention of infection. New condoms or dental dams for each sexual act is another important factor in avoiding any possible infection being transmitted.
  • Abstaining from sex: Above all, it’s recommended to abstain from sexual activity during pregnancy.
  • Being Aware: Make sure you and your partner are aware of all the necessary information regarding pregnancy, STDs and all other things that can negatively affect your child from having a healthy birth and future.
  • Undergoing all tests: Ensure that you’re prenatal examinations are all conducted with utmost effectiveness and every test required is taken at the right time followed by any necessary treatment.

"Communication plays a major role in treatment of all diseases especially during pregnancy there should be proper communication between the patient and her medical provider."

Listing Out The Common Effects Of STDs/STIs On Newborns

The common effects of STDs/STIs can be:

  • Blood infection
  • Brain damage
  • Eye infection
  • Liver diseases
  • Deafness and Blindness
  • Pneumonia
  • Lack of coordination in body movements

What Are The Symptoms Of STDs In The Mother?

  • Painless or painful skin rash
  • Unbearable pain while urinating
  • All kinds of aches
  • Fever with chills
  • Sudden decrease in body weight
  • Stool that is unusually loose
  • Skin turning yellow
  • Vaginal area experiences itching 
  • Vaginal discharge with an odor 

"Some of the infections are asymptomatic, so do not overlook the chance of transmission in case of normal conditions."

Related Questions

  • 1
    What are the common newborn screening tests?
    Phenylketonuria (PKU), Biotinidase deficiency, Homocystinuria, Congenital adrenal hyperplasia, Cystic fibrosis, Toxoplasmosis, Sickle Cell Disease are few of the many tests conducted in newborn babies. Each place has its own set of screening tests.
  • 2
    Do doctors check for STDs in pregnant women?
    Yes, as we mentioned above, in the first prenatal consultation itself, the mother is tested for STDs/STIs. They are given necessary treatment from that stage itself, to avoid any big complication in the future.
  • 3
    Can Caesarean delivery help in reducing the chance of STD spreading?
    Yes. Caesarean delivery can help in reducing the chance of STD spreading to the newborn as it does not involve the exposure to vaginal liquid.
  • 4
    Is newborn screening test necessary? Will it harm the child?
    Newborn screening tests are of utmost importance as they can help reducing the effect of dangerous diseases, by giving the timely treatment to each child. A little discomfort may be felt if the baby is awake but it’s just a quick prick with the needle on the heel to collect the blood sample.
  • 5
    Can STD cause infertility in women?
    Chlamydia can cause infertility in men and women but that doesn’t mean that having any other STDs can be the reason for infertility in women. 
  • 6
    Is there a chance of miscarriage in women with STD?
    Certain STDs like Gonorrhea can lead to miscarriage. It’s mostly due to the untreated condition, hence always be sure to take the necessary steps to treat the condition when diagnosed.

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