Sexually transmitted diseases can be contracted at any time, but are especially dangerous during pregnancy. Check out everything you need to know about chlamydia during pregnancy.
Often called the silent disease, chlamydia often presents with no symptoms.
In fact, about 75% of women and 50% of men will not experience any indications that they have a sexually transmitted disease.
This can be especially dangerous for pregnant women. Chlamydia during pregnancy can be fatal for an unborn baby yet is easily treatable.
What is Chlamydia?
Chlamydia is a sexually transmitted infection that is caused by the spread of the bacteria chlamydia trachomatis. This type of bacteria can be present in the vaginal fluid and sperm. It likes to live in the mucous membranes.
It is commonly found in the cervix of women and the urethra in men but can also affect the anus, throat and eyes.
Transmission of Chlamydia
Chlamydia is a sexually transmitted disease. It commonly spreads through sexual acts involving the mouth, penis, vagina and anus.
There is a potential risk to both mother and her unborn baby. Therefore, doctors screen most pregnant women for STDs at one of their first prenatal appointments.
If you have sex with an infected partner during your pregnancy, there is a possibility of exposure to STDs, including chlamydia. Therefore, testing may be required. Quick treatment is the best protection for passing chlamydia onto your baby.
Symptoms of Chlamydia in Women
While chlamydia is often asymptomatic, about one-quarter of women will experience some symptoms such as:
- Painful or burning sensation during urination
- Pain in lower back and abdomen
- Pain during intercourse
- Bleeding between periods
It is also possible for both men and women to develop Reiter syndrome. Reiter syndrome can cause arthritis, painful urination and redness and inflammation in the eyes.
Check out symptoms of Chlamydia in men here.
Risk to Mother Prior to Becoming Pregnant
Chlamydia can cause serious damage to the female reproductive system regardless of whether a woman is pregnant. If left untreated, chlamydia bacteria can migrate in the body from the vagina into the uterus, fallopian tubes and ovaries. As the bacteria travels, so does the infection and inflammation. This can cause scarring in the reproductive organs.
Untreated Chlamydia can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). PID can cause scar tissue to form in the fallopian tubes as well as chronic pelvic pain. This scar tissue can make it difficult for a fertilized egg to travel through the fallopian tubes and implant in the uterine lining. This can lead to fertility issues or ectopic pregnancy.
As many as 500 000 PID cases in the United States are due to chlamydia infection. Of these cases, 100 000 women become infertile.
Can Chlamydia Cause a Miscarriage?
Sexually transmitted diseases, such as chlamydia are serious illnesses. Chlamydia can cause serious harm to both men and women, but with pregnancy, another life is also at risk. When present during pregnancy Chlamydia can cause miscarriage and preterm birth.
Chlamydia can cause damage to the fallopian tubes which can increase the chance of having an ectopic pregnancy. An ectopic pregnancy is one where the fertilized egg attaches itself outside of the uterus. This type of pregnancy ends in termination and if left untreated can even be fatal. Unfortunately these pregnancies are unable to survive to term or be relocated into the uterus.
Risk to Baby
Pregnant women who do not treat their chlamydia put their unborn babies at risk. Chlamydia during pregnancy increases the risk of prematurely ruptured membranes, low birth weight, stillbirth and misscarriage.
Chlamydia can also be passed onto the baby at birth. The infection is spread from an infected mother to her baby in about 50 % of vaginal births. It can also be spread during cesarean sections but at a much lower rate.
Chlamydia can cause conjunctivitis in babies during birth. Conjunctivitis is an eye inflammation with redness, swelling and discharge. This can also be accompanied by pneumonia. Symptoms of pneumonia can include a cough and rapid breathing.
Chlamydial conjunctivitis and pneumonia are usually easily treated but if left untreated could result in a more serious illness even death. Infants with a history of CT pneumonia have a greater chance of asthma and reactive airways disease.
While the symptoms typically appear about 1 to 3 weeks after exposure, pneumonia may develop several months after birth.
Diagnosis of Chlamydia in Women
A doctor usually carries out early pregnancy screening for Chlamydia. Chlamydia can be transmitted through any unprotected act of oral, vaginal or anal sex. Any risky behaviour should warrant another screening.
A chlamydia screening is a combination of two tests. The first is a simple urinalysis to determine if chlamydia trachomatis is present in the urine.
Secondly, a physician will swab the cervix to test for the bacteria. He may also swab the anal region during your routine pap smear.
Usually, only one test is necessary. Either a urine specimen or a cervical swab. The sensitivity and specificity of the cervical swab are slightly higher than for urine sample but for most clinical situations one test is sufficient
For information on how Chlamydia is diagnosed in men, click here.
Treatment of Chlamydia
A doctor should evaluate each pregnancy on an individual basis. Although, treatment for chlamydia is safe during pregnancy.
Some antibiotics used in treating chlamydia are unsafe to take during pregnancy. However, safer options are available.
Inexpensive antibiotics to treat chlamydia are equally effective. According to research, these are safe for pregnant and breastfeeding women.
In rare cases, these may cause side effects such as vomiting, nausea and diarrhea.
When an infant is affected with chlamydial pneumonia or conjunctivitis they are usually treated with should be treated with oral medications. Topical treatment for the eye infection is ineffective and unnecessary.
Anyone you have had sexual contact within the last 60 days should get treatment. This includes oral, anal and penetrative sex.
Treating all partners is an important step in preventing the spread of the disease since it often has no symptoms.
It is best to avoid sexual contact for seven days after you complete a full round of antibiotics.
It is still possible to get chlamydia while receiving treatment. Do not stop taking the antibiotics even if you are no longer experiencing any symptoms. You should retest after three months of completing the treatment.
Worried about your Pregnancy Health?
Connect with one of our doctors judgement-free to ask any questions and receive medical insights from leading North American doctors. We save you the embarrassment and the waiting room. Connect today.