Chlamydia and Your Pregnancy
Chlamydia is one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases in the world. More than 3 million cases of Chlamydia occur in the United States every year. Men and women can both be affected by Chlamydia, but symptoms of the infection are not always present. In fact, up to 75% of women and 50% of men experience no symptoms of Chlamydia. Because Chlamydia can easily be passed to your newborn, causing illness and possible tissue damage, it is important to get tested if you are experiencing any Chlamydia symptoms or are pregnant.
What is Chlamydia?
Chlamydia is a bacterial infection that is passed through vaginal and seminal fluid. Left untreated, Chlamydia in women can cause pelvic inflammatory disease, which in turn can cause infertility and damage to the reproductive organs. Untreated Chlamydia in men can cause epididymitis, which can lead to sterility. While it is possible to cure Chlamydia through antibiotics, this treatment cannot undo any damage that may have already occurred in your reproductive organs. Therefore, it is important to seek medical attention as soon as you suspect you may have Chlamydia.
Chlamydia and Your Baby
If you are pregnant it is important to be tested, even if you are exhibiting none of the signs and symptoms of Chlamydia. Chlamydia has been linked with premature delivery resulting from the infection stimulating the rupture of your uterine membranes. Additionally, Chlamydia can cause your baby to have a low birth weight at birth. The infection can also be easily passed to your child during birth.
As your baby passes through the birth canal, she will come into contact with your blood and vaginal fluids. The bacteria that cause Chlamydia, Chlamydia trachomatis, are passed through contact with these fluids. In fact, between 20% and 50% of babies born to infected mothers will contract the infection. If your baby contracts Chlamydia from you during pregnancy, it is possible that she will develop infections in the genitals, lungs, ears, and eyes. Babies infected with Chlamydia are at a particular risk for developing neonatal conjunctivitis (pink eye) and pneumonia.
Symptoms of Chlamydia in Newborns
If you are pregnant and infected with Chlamydia, there is a good chance that your baby will also contract the illness. Neonatal conjunctivitis is an infection caused by chlamydia that occurs in your baby’s eyes. Symptoms of Chlamydia infection in the eyes generally occur within 10 days of birth. Although your baby will be alert and aware, his eyes will be irritated and red. Moreover, he may experience swollen eyelids and a discharge from his eyes. This discharge can range from watery to thick and yellowish in appearance.
Even though your baby’s symptoms can vary, from very mild to severe, it is necessary to seek treatment as soon as possible. Conjunctivitis can be very damaging to your newborn’s eyes and can cause scarring and even permanent blindness.
Chlamydia infections in newborns can also lead to Infant Pneumonia. Symptoms of this infection develop between three and six weeks after birth. Your baby will exhibit a dry, irritating cough, which will gradually become more congested. Symptoms will become worse and can include rapid or labored breathing. 50% of newborns with Chlamydia pneumonia will also develop Chlamydial conjunctivitis.
Testing and Treatment
If you are pregnant, ask to be tested for Chlamydia even if you are not exhibiting any symptoms and aren’t at high risk for the disease. Because your baby can pick up Chlamydia in the birth canal, it is better to be aware of any infection before birth so that it can be properly treated before the baby is infected.
Pregnant women who are infected will be treated with Erythromycin or Amoxicillin. These antibiotics are usually taken once a day for seven days and will cure 90% of infected mothers. If you have received treatment for Chlamydia, it is a good idea for to have Chlamydia testing again 3 weeks after your treatment, to be sure that your body is rid of the disease.
If your baby is born with signs of Chlamydia he can also be successfully treated with Erythromycin. However, by getting tested when you first find out you are pregnant, you can prevent your baby from contracting the disease and suffering any physical damage as a result.
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