For some, pregnancy can be a wonderful experience. It can also be overwhelming and difficult. While your body does many amazing things during pregnancy, it can’t protect you from getting a sexually transmitted disease (STD) or infection (STI). 

STDs can affect women at any age or stage, including during pregnancy. You can contract the same STIs during pregnancy as people who aren’t pregnant, and you can even conceive while you have an undiagnosed or untreated STI. STDs during pregnancy can cause complications (more on this below). 

One of the best ways to prevent complications caused by STIs is to get tested. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends screening pregnant women for STIs as part of their first-trimester pregnancy check-up, which can help ensure early detection and treatment. 

Your prenatal healthcare provider should include STI testing early in your pregnancy as part of a typical prenatal test panel. Double check with your provider to ensure they are checking for STIs during your first trimester, and again closer to delivery if needed. Most complications from untreated STIs (or anything else) can be prevented with regular medical care during pregnancy — the sooner you begin receiving medical care during pregnancy, the better the health outcomes will be for you and your developing baby. 

While having an STD while pregnant can be scary, most infections can be easily treated before they harm you or your developing baby. The key is getting tested! Keep reading to find out what happens if you get an STD while pregnant. 

What are the symptoms of STIs?

Many STIs do not cause any symptoms. When they do, symptoms can vary based on the type of infection and how long you’ve had it. If you have new symptoms, it’s important to discuss them with your healthcare provider. Below are some general red flags you should look out for — and the symptoms of an STD while pregnant are the same. 

Symptoms of a sexually transmitted infection include: 

  • Unusual vaginal discharge (that might have a foul smell)
  • Sores, blisters, or warts on the mouth, genitals, or anus
  • Genital or rectal pain, itching, and redness
  • Having to pee frequently 
  • Painful urination
  • Pain during sex 
  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Abdominal or pelvic pain
  • Fever.

Keep in mind that some of these symptoms can be a sign of something other than an STI, such as a vaginal yeast infection or bacterial vaginosis (BV)

Some of these symptoms — like unusual discharge, having to pee frequently, and mild pelvic pain — are also common in pregnancy, even if you don’t have an STI. Your healthcare provider should talk you through what is and isn’t normal during pregnancy, but if you notice any symptoms that seem out of the ordinary (or worry you), talk to your doctor. 

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How can STIs affect my pregnancy? 

Most STIs are nothing more than an inconvenience when caught and treated early. If left untreated, however, STIs can lead to long-term complications. If you’re pregnant, untreated STIs can complicate your pregnancy and can have serious effects on both you and your developing baby. 

Different STDs can affect pregnancy in different ways. Some of the main risks of having an untreated STI during pregnancy are: 

What happens to a newborn when the mother has an STI or STD while pregnant?

STIs can be passed from pregnant women to the baby both before and during birth. Some STIs, such as syphilis, cross the placenta and infect the baby while it's still developing in the uterus. 

Meanwhile, STIs, like gonorrhea, chlamydia, hepatitis B, genital herpes, and genital warts, can pass from the mother to the baby during delivery through the birth canal. Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) can cross the placenta during pregnancy and also infect the baby during delivery or breastfeeding.

The effects of an untreated STI on newborns can include:

  • Low birth weight
  • Blood, lung, and eye infections
  • Meningitis
  • Chronic liver disease
  • Stillbirth

Some health problems can affect your baby from birth, while others may take months or years to surface. As scary as these sound, complications like this are incredibly rare. STD testing is part of routine prenatal care, and most STIs are screened for at the beginning of your pregnancy and then again closer to your due date if necessary (based on your age and risk factors). 

The CDC recommends that pregnant women undergo screening for the following STDs during their first prenatal appointment:

  • Syphilis
  • Chlamydia
  • Gonorrhea
  • HIV
  • Hepatitis B and C

Can I get treated for an STD while I'm pregnant?

For the most part, yes. Many sexually transmitted diseases can be treated and cured with antibiotics that are safe to take during pregnancy. These STIs include chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, and trichomoniasis

Some viral STDs such as genital herpes, human papillomavirus (HPV), and HIV aren't curable. Still, your healthcare provider can recommend antiviral medications or other preventive measures to reduce the risk of passing the infection to your baby.

If you have active herpes lesions or a genital warts flare-up. your healthcare provider might suggest a c-section to prevent passing the infection to your baby during delivery. Remember, your healthcare provider is there to help you every step of the way during your pregnancy and will tailor your care based on your individual circumstances.


What happens if you have an STD while pregnant?

Depending on what STI it is, STIs are mostly just an inconvenience if caught and treated early. However, if left untreated, they can lead to complications during pregnancy, such as miscarriage, preterm birth, or fetal health issues. Luckily, STI testing is usually part of routine prenatal check-ups, and most STIs can be treated with prescription antibiotics that are safe to take even when you're pregnant. Ask your doctor to be sure you are being tested for STIs early in your pregnancy, and again closer to delivery if needed. If you're diagnosed with an STI that can’t be treated or cured, your doctor can make recommendations to prevent the infection from being passed to the baby.

What STD is common in pregnancy?

Pregnant people can get the same sexually transmitted diseases as everyone else. The most common STDs are syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia, and trichomoniasis, but you're at risk of contracting any STD during pregnancy.

What are the symptoms of gonorrhea while pregnant?

Gonorrhea doesn’t always cause symptoms, but if it does, they’re the same whether or not you’re pregnant. Some common signs of gonorrhea are green or yellow vaginal discharge, pain when you pee or have sex, pain or tenderness in the lower belly and vaginal bleeding. Remember that these can also be symptoms of another infection, so the only way to know for sure if you have gonorrhea while pregnant is by taking an STD test.