Pregnancy and STD Testing - What are the Procedures and Expectations
Before Conception - Wise Planning
When a woman is planning her pregnancy, then the health and well being of her unborn baby is her first priority. She already knows that she needs to take good care of herself, ensuring a good pregnancy diet and adequate exercise. She also needs to deal with any health issues she may have that might affect her pregnancy or her baby. That's where a preconception visit is valuable. By meeting with a healthcare professional before conception, she can avail herself of all of the testing, including STD testing, necessary to ensure a healthy pregnancy.
However, it appears that unless you go to a specific source for your testing, you may miss out on some very vital information. Regular STD testing, when not pregnant, should be done through an organization such as Planned Parenthood to ensure you are getting the proper STD testing procedures done. STD testing costs vary with the state and locale of the clinics, so check with the outlet providing the testing to see what the costs will be. Local STD testing can be done through Planned Parenthood or through the local health unit.
Make Sure All of the Testing is Done
Even doctors who test their patients on a regular basis may not test for all common STDs. If STD symptoms are not present for diseases such as genital herpes or HPV, then the herpes testing won't be done. This may give a woman a false sense of security, thinking there is no cause for alarm. That's why it is important that a woman who is considering pregnancy be aware of which STDs she has and has not been tested for. Chlamydia testing and gonorrhea testing are almost consistently performed because they are the two most common forms of STDs. However, there are many more that should be tested for before a woman becomes pregnant.
A Woman Can Contract an STD After Conception
If a woman has not contracted an STD before pregnancy, then she needs to be very careful that she doesn't do so after she conceives. It is very possible for women who are pregnant to become infected with the same sexually transmitted diseases as women who are not pregnant. Pregnancy does not afford a shield against nor protection from STDs. If a woman becomes infected with an STD while pregnant, the effects can be overwhelmingly more serious and the consequences more threatening than if she were not pregnant.
The Horrible Consequences
Many STDs in women are silent, meaning they do not have symptoms or signs that trigger an alarm. STDs can cause cervical and other cancers, chronic hepatitis, PID (pelvic inflammatory disease), and other complications including infertility. If a woman is pregnant and contracts an STD, it can be passed from her to her baby before, during or after the birth. Some STDs cross the placenta, like syphillis, and the baby becomes infected in the uterus. Gonorrhea, chlamydia, hepatitis B and genital herpes can be transmitted during delivery as the baby goes through the birth canal. HIV crosses the placenta during pregnancy, infects the baby during the birth process, and can even affect the baby through nursing - something the other STDs do not do.
Early onset labor, premature rupture of the membranes and uterine infection after delivery are other effects of STDs on pregnancy women. A baby who has been exposed to an STD during the pregnancy may be stillborn, have a low birth weight, eye infections, pneumonia, blood infections, neurological damage, blindness, or deafness. Diseases such as acute hepatitis, meningitis, chronic liver disease, and cirrhosis are all preventable diseases that result from STDs.
Proper screening prior to conception or early on in the pregnancy can address these problems and alert the healthcare professionals so they can treat them if the infection is found at birth.