The average number of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) hit an all time high in 2018, with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reporting that around 1 in 5 people in the US have an STD - that’s almost 68 million infections in 2018 alone [1].

Taking these numbers into consideration, as well as the problems some of these common STDs can cause in women, it’s important to remember that pregnancy doesn’t provide women or their newborns any additional protection. In fact, women who are pregnant can become infected with the same STDs as those who aren’t expecting. And, while it may go without saying, becoming infected while pregnant is linked to a number of potential complications.

Some of the STDs that can cause complications during pregnancy include:

  • HIV
  • Chlamydia
  • Hepatitis B
  • Syphilis
  • Gonorrhea

See also: Can an STI go Undetected?

Can having an STD affect your pregnancy?

A sexually transmitted disease (STD) during pregnancy can potentially have serious risks for both the woman, and the newborn which is why screening for STDs during the first prenatal visit is extremely important. It’s important to remember that not all STDs show obvious signs or symptoms, so remember to speak with your doctor about regular testing options.

There are a number of STDs to know about which can pose a risk to both the mother and child, these include:


It’s possible for a pregnant women who has tested positive for HIV to pass the virus on to their newborn child during pregnancy, delivery and sometimes through breast-feeding [2].

Once you have been diagnosed early, and proceed to take the HIV treatment as advised, the risk of transmission during pregnancy can be reduced. In some cases, the NHS notes, a c-section may be recommended by the doctor [3].


For those who are pregnant and have tested positive for chlamydia, it’s possible to pass the virus on to the child during delivery. Other possible complications associated with chlamydia during pregnancy include:

  • Premature birth
  • Low birth weight

If a woman contracts chlamydia while pregnant, it can often be treated with an antibiotic.

See also: Does Chlamydia Cause Long-Term Damage?

Hepatitis B

Babies that are born to a mother who has tested positive for hepatitis B are at a greater risk of developing the virus during vaginal delivery or c-section. However, this transmission can be prevented if the child is treated shortly after birth with a set of shots [4].


According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), around 40% of babies born to women with untreated syphilis can be stillborn as a result of the infection [5].

With these statistics in mind, it’s important to remember, early syphilis can be treated and cured with antibiotics and that there is treatment available for babies born with congenital syphilis.


An untreated gonorrhea infection in a pregnant woman can cause the virus to be passed to the baby during delivery. Other complications include:

  • Premature birth
  • Low birth weight

Gonorrhea can be cured with the right treatment, making regular sexual health screening and practicing safe sex one of the best ways to prevent gonorrhea in newborns [6].

How are STDs treated during pregnancy?

STDs fall under two categories - bacterial and viral. While bacterial STDs such as chlamydia, syphilis and gonorrhea can all be treated and cured with antibiotics during pregnancy, viral STDs such as HIV and hepatitis can’t be cured. In saying that, there are antiviral medications available that can help in reducing the risk of passing the virus on to your child.

See also: What’s the Difference Between Bacterial and Viral STDs?

How can you prevent STDs during pregnancy?

Although one of the only surefire ways to prevent sexually transmitted infections is through abstaining from sexual activity, there are other steps that can be taken that can help reduce the risk of contracting an STD during pregnancy, these include:

  • Use condoms and dental dams correctly
  • Ensuring both you and your partner have been tested for STDs
  • Checking your sexual health regularly with a lab test - this can be done from home or with your doctor

One of the most reliable ways to know more about your sexual health is through regular testing. This can be done with your doctor or from the comfort of your own home with an at-home lab test. If you have already noticed symptoms, it’s important to speak with your healthcare provider.

LetsGetChecked’s range of Sexual Health Tests can detect a number of common STDs with online results available within 2-5 days. Our dedicated clinical team are available should you have any questions throughout the process or regarding your results.

You should consider taking the test if:

  • You become sexually active
  • You have had unprotected sex
  • You’re experiencing symptoms of a sexually transmitted infection
  • You’re entering into a new sexual relationship
  • You have received a notification from a previous partner that they are infected (STIs can remain dormant for years and/ or take up to three weeks to become detectable.)

See also: How do you Check for STDs From Home?


  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sexually Transmitted Disease. Online:
  2. Mayo Clinic. STDs and pregnancy: Get the facts. Online:
  3. NHS. Can HIV be passed to an unborn baby in pregnancy or through breastfeeding? Online:
  4. Mayo Clinic. STDs and pregnancy: Get the facts. Online:
  5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Congenital Syphilis. Online:
  6. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Gonococcal Infections Among Neonates. Online: