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.
It is commonly found in the cervix of women and the urethra in men but can also affect the anus, throat and eyes.
Where does chlamydia come from?
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 the 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.
Related: Everything That You Need To Know About Chlamydia In Men.
What does chlamydia feel like when pregnant?
Chlamydia infection in pregnant women often does not cause noticeable symptoms, so routine testing is crucial to detect and treat the disease. However, in some cases, pregnant women with Chlamydia may experience the following symptoms:
Abnormal vaginal discharge:
The discharge may have an odd colour or smell, be thicker or more frequent than usual, or be accompanied by itching or burning.
The tube that conducts urine from the bladder outside the body, the urethra, can become inflamed and irritated due to Chlamydia. When urinating, this may hurt, feel uncomfortable, or burn.
Chlamydia can result in pelvic pain or discomfort by inflaming and infecting the reproductive organs.
It’s essential to note that other conditions can also cause these symptoms, so pregnant women who experience any of them should seek medical attention and get tested for Chlamydia and other possible infections. Testing and treatment for Chlamydia during pregnancy can prevent potential complications for both the mother and the baby.
Risk to Mother Prior to Becoming Pregnant
Studies indicate that chlamydia can lead to the following conditions:
- Pelvic inflammatory disease (40%),
- Infertility (20%),
- Tubal pregnancies (9%),
- Chronic pelvic pain (18%).
The presence of two or more of the following factors puts a woman at risk of contracting a chlamydial infection:
- Being unmarried
- Age less than 20 years old
- Having other sexually transmitted diseases
- Having multiple sexual partners in the past 3 months
- The partner has nongonococcal urethritis
- Nongonococcal mucopurulent endocervicitis
- Abacterial pyuria
- History of unprotected sex within the past 3 months
- Low socioeconomic status
- African American or Hispanic race/ethnicity
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.
Additionally, women infected with chlamydia have a three- to five-fold increased risk of acquiring the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) if exposed.
How can Chlamydia affect Pregnancy?
Chlamydia infection during pregnancy can lead to various complications, including.
Spontaneous abortions (miscarriages):
An increased chance of miscarriages, or losing a pregnancy before 20 weeks, is associated with chlamydia infection.
Chlamydia can cause the uterus to contract prematurely, leading to preterm labour. This increases the likelihood of delivering the baby before 37 weeks of gestation.
Premature rupture of membranes
Chlamydia infection can weaken the membranes surrounding the baby (amniotic sac), causing them to rupture (break) before the onset of labour. This can lead to complications and necessitate early delivery.
Low birth weight
Patients with Chlamydia are more likely to deliver infants underweight at delivery, which is generally regarded as less than 5.5 pounds (2.5 kilograms). The baby’s long-term health could be impacted by low birth weight.
Chlamydia infection increases the risk of premature birth, which occurs when the baby is born before completing 37 weeks of gestation. Premature babies may face various health challenges due to their underdeveloped organs and systems.
A chlamydia infection can increase the risk of stillbirth when a baby dies after 20 weeks of pregnancy but before birth. For expectant parents, this might be a heartbreaking conclusion.
Pregnant women contracting Chlamydia risk losing a newborn within the first 28 days of life. Due to exposure to Chlamydia during delivery, newborns may be at risk for serious problems or infections.
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.
Physicians recommend screening for chlamydia in early pregnancy, preferably on a woman’s first prenatal visit. The recommendations strongly suggest screening for chlamydia in pregnancy’s third trimester to prevent any complications during the perinatal period or in the newborn.
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 miscarriage.
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. Intrauterine and transplacental infections are possible. If fetal membranes rupture, it can cause direct inoculation of the neonate’s nasopharynx and lungs. Amniotic fluid is an excellent medium for chlamydial growth and may lead to amnionitis, premature rupture of membranes, stillbirth, premature delivery, and low birth weight.
Once the newborn is infected, conjunctivitis occurs in newborns of untreated mothers, and pneumonia occurs in these newborns. Chlamydia can lead to other respiratory illnesses, such as otitis media, bronchiolitis, rhinitis, pharyngitis, and infant gastroenteritis. Chlamydial conjunctivitis usually affects both eyes and progresses from a watery to a discharge that becomes purulent, followed by swelling of the eyelids and redness of the conjunctiva.
Signs of conjunctivitis usually do not appear until the newborn is 2 to 3 weeks old. Therefore, a culture of discharge should be taken for diagnosis. If the infection is left untreated, conjunctivitis may last a few weeks to several months. Early detection and treatment are necessary to avoid corneal scarring and impaired vision.
On entering the conjunctiva, the organism can spread through the lacrimal ducts to the nasopharynx and end up in the lungs. Several exposed infants will develop pneumonia. Symptoms may not develop until 6 weeks after birth. Signs of pneumonia gradually worsen, and the newborn develops a cough, nasal obstruction and nasal discharge, vomiting, and cyanosis. Occasional wheezing or rales may be present.
Newborns with chlamydia infections of the lower respiratory tract have a higher chance of chronic symptoms and impaired lung function longer than do infants with uncomplicated viral infections. Therefore, it is essential to screen the mother whenever a newborn is diagnosed with a chlamydial infection.
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.
How is chlamydia during pregnancy diagnosed?
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 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 the urine sample,s but for most clinical situations, one test is sufficient.
Treatment of Chlamydia During Pregnancy
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.
A baby may acquire the sexually transmitted bacterial disease chlamydia after childbirth. It can result in significant health issues for the mother and the child if untreated. Therefore, it is crucial to get prompt treatment for Chlamydia during pregnancy.
The most effective treatment for Chlamydia during pregnancy is a course of antibiotics. The antibiotics prescribed by your healthcare provider will depend on various factors, such as the infection’s severity, the pregnancy stage, and any other medical conditions you may have.
Commonly prescribed antibiotics for Chlamydia during pregnancy include:
- Azithromycin: This antibiotic can be taken as a single dose or over 5-7 days.
- Amoxicillin: This type of penicillin is safe to use during pregnancy.
- Erythromycin: This antibiotic is often used if you are allergic to penicillin.
It is important to complete the entire course of antibiotics as your healthcare provider prescribes, even if your symptoms disappear. This will ensure that the infection is fully treated and reduce the risk of complications.
Your doctor may also advise the treatment of your sexual partner(s) to avoid reinfection.
It is essential to attend all of your prenatal appointments and inform your healthcare provider if you have any symptoms or concerns about Chlamydia during pregnancy.
In rare cases, these may cause side effects such as vomiting, nausea and diarrhoea.
What happens if my test shows that I have chlamydia?
If you have tested positive for chlamydia while pregnant, there are multiple treatment options but taking treatment is essential to cure the infection.
Since doxycycline and ofloxacin are contraindicated during pregnancy, Chlamydia treatment in pregnancy includes the followings regimens:
Azithromycin, 1 g orally given as a single dose
Amoxicillin 500 mg orally, three times a day for 7 to 10 days is used as an alternative for those who cannot take azithromycin.
When an infant is affected with chlamydial pneumonia or conjunctivitis, they are usually treated with should be treated with oral medications. Topical treatment for eye infection is ineffective and unnecessary.
Pregnant women should be retested for Chlamydia 3 weeks after completion of treatment. Anyone you have had sexual contact with 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.
Ways to prevent chlamydia during pregnancy
There are ways to screen or test for chlamydia during early pregnancy and ways to cure the infection. However, there are only two foolproof ways to avoid getting infected with chlamydia during pregnancy:
- Refraining from any kind of sexual contact
- Remaining in a monogamous relationship where both partners have tested negative for STDs
When to Consult a Doctor
Starting the treatment at the right time can help prevent any serious risks or complications. If you are currently pregnant or planning a pregnancy, our doctors at Your Doctors Online can help you with your medical concerns.
FAQs on Chlamydia During Pregnancy Answered by Your Doctors Online
Gonorrhoea is a common sexually transmitted disease (STD). It is also known as “the clap” or “drip.”
Untreated chlamydial infections increase the chances of complications during pregnancy. Chlamydia causes an increased risk of miscarriage, preterm birth, premature rupture of membranes and low birth weight.
Ensure you complete the course of antibiotics if you are diagnosed with chlamydia. It is essential to avoid intercourse until the treatment is finished or at least for a week following that. Repeating the test 3 months after treatment is of utmost importance as well.
Even if you have chlamydia, you can get pregnant. However, untreated infections may lead to pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), which may cause scarring, and blockage in your reproductive organs, particularly your fallopian tubes contributing to infertility. It also increases the chances of ectopic pregnancy and developing chronic pelvic pain.
If a woman has a chlamydial infection when giving birth, there is a possibility that the infection will be passed on to the newborn during delivery. Such babies can develop an eye infection (conjunctivitis) or pneumonia(lung infection) and usually require antibiotics for treatment.
Some antibiotics are considered safe to take during pregnancy. However, Hower treatment depends on the condition, and it is wise to consult a doctor before starting any treatment. To cure infections, it is essential to take antibiotics as advised.
Antibiotics are an effective way to treat chlamydia while pregnant. Although the length of the therapy varies, it usually consists of an antibiotic course administered for roughly seven days. It’s crucial to finish the entire duration of treatment as advised by the healthcare professional. A follow-up test is typically recommended after therapy to ensure the infection has been properly eradicated. Prompt treatment is essential to avoid problems and protect the health of both the mother and the unborn child.
It is routine to test newborns for various STIs, such as Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, and HIV. This is usually carried out in many healthcare settings as part of standard newborn screening regimens. Testing enables early discovery and suitable treatment if the baby has been exposed to an STI during birth.
Chlamydia can stay in the body for a long time if not treated. Typically, chlamydia can continue to be active and present symptoms for months or even years.
It’s crucial to remember that chlamydia can also be asymptomatic, meaning that a person may not exhibit any symptoms while harbouring and spreading the infection.
Chlamydia, left untreated, can result in several difficulties and health problems, such as infertility, pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), and a higher chance of developing other STDs.
Chlamydia in infants can be treated with oral antibiotics if it is discovered early. Most of the time, symptoms disappear a few days after taking the medication. Early detection and prompt treatment are essential to prevent complications and ensure the baby’s well-being.