A new study has revealed how being diagnosed with sexually transmitted diseases before or during pregnancy can impact newborns and their health. Experts have said that Chlamydia, syphilis, and gonorrhea that are not diagnosed due to the lack of typical symptoms in the early stages of the disease are linked to a greater risk of premature delivery among pregnant women. These sexually transmitted diseases are known as silent infections. Health experts have said that premature birth is defined as when the baby is born prior to the gestation of 37 weeks. They have said that premature birth is one of the leading causes of newborn complications and death of the mother or infant.
As per the latest data, preterm births lead account for nearly 10 percent of live-born deliveries in the United States. The authors of the study have said that the rate of premature birth has shot up from 2016 to 2019 by a small amount. They have said that therefore, there is a need for more interventions to find out risk factors for preterm delivery. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported that incidents of Chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis as well have shot up from 2013 to 2018. Health experts who have been involved in the new study have said that maternal sexually transmitted infections (STIs) harm growing fetuses; however, past studies that have been done on this link have been inconclusive.
The authors of the new study have said that they have used birth certificate data from across the nation. They have also used health records of more than 14 million mother-infant duos to find out a link between maternal sexually transmitted infection and premature birth. The outcomes of the new analysis have been released in the journal known as JAMA Network Open.
The authors of the study have found that out of all mothers who have delivered their babies from January 2016 to December 2019, nearly 1.9 percent of them have been diagnosed with chlamydia and 0.3 percent of mothers have been dealing with gonorrhea. Experts have found that nearly 0.1 percent of these mothers have been found to be infected with syphilis before or during pregnancies. They have informed that out of all newborns, around 8 percent of them have been born before the due date.
The findings of the new study have shown that mothers who have been infected with chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis have been at 1.04, 1.10, and 1.17 times higher risk of having premature birth as compared to women who have not been dealing with any sexually transmitted infections. It means that they have been at a greater risk of delivering their babies between 32 to 36 weeks of gestation. The authors of the report have noted that being infected with syphilis and gonorrhea has been more strongly linked to a higher rate of premature birth; it means they give birth between 28 and 31 weeks. The co-author of the study, Kelli Ryckman has said that though some of the effects are tiny, sexually transmitted infections seem to shoot up women’s odds of delivering babies prematurely. Kelli Ryckman is a professor of epidemiology from the University of Iowa’s College of Public Health.
The CDC has said that chlamydia and gonorrhea are some general sexually transmitted diseases that can impact people of all genders who have vaginal, anal, or oral sex with someone who has been diagnosed with STIs. Chlamydia can lead to severe and permanent harm to the reproductive system of women. The findings of the study have noted that sexually transmitted infections can lead to preterm birth and can be transferred to newborns during the deliveries that can lead to pneumonia and ear infections.
Scientists have said that Chlamydia and gonorrhea can spread across the vagina and cervix and affect the incidents of chorioamnionitis as well. Chorioamnionitis is a health issue where bacterium taints the membranes nearby the fetuses and the fluid in which the fetus stays. Syphilis spreads via direct contact with syphilis sore on or near the anus, penis, vagina, mouth, and rectum. It can result in systemic infection or prompt the placenta to use its inflammatory reaction. These reactions can lead to inflammation and can stimulate maternal or fetal or both immune systems, which is a primary reason for premature birth.
The authors of the study have said that if maternal STIs lead to preterm delivery, it relies on the traits, viral load, and the timings of infections as well. Other experts have said that the huge sample size of the study might reflect the precision of the study but might not show the validity of the findings. They have said that observational studies like this one are not able to observe individual behaviors and other parameters that possibly lead to preterm birth. Factors such as chronic stress, lack of access to care, gestational age of diagnosis of STIs might result in premature childbirth. They have added that experts need to have a better understanding of infections that have been or not have been treated. Health care providers have fewer resources to search for targeted treatments to avert premature childbirth in a group of curable infectious ailments.
The CDC has advised that being in a mutually monogamous relationship with a person who has been screened for STIs and has tested negative can reduce the risk of contracting sexually transmitted infections. Experts from the CDC have said that people should use latex condoms correctly while having sex to keep STIs at bay. Nevertheless, people can still contract syphilis from soreness in areas that are not covered by a condom. In women, chlamydia, syphilis, and gonorrhea can cause symptoms such as abnormal vaginal discharge, burning sensation while urinating, vaginal bleeding, itching, or rectal pain. Some women can also feel painful bowel movements as well. Experts have said that firm, round, and painless sores are the early symptoms of syphilis. The US Preventive Task Force and the CDC have advised pregnant women who are 25 years of age or younger to undergo testing for chlamydia, syphilis, and gonorrhea in the first trimester. Having sex with multiple people, improper use of condoms, having sexual intercourse with STI infected person, and having a history of STI are risk factors for being diagnosed with STIs.
The CDC has said that pregnant women who are at a higher risk of STIs should undergo testing in the third trimester as well. Experts from the CDC have said that all women need to undergo testing for syphilis early along with second testing during the third trimester. The authors of the new study have said that if pregnant women feel that they might have contracted STIs, they should immediately get in touch with their health care providers and seek treatment if they are diagnosed with the infection. They have said that if pregnant women are detected with a sexually transmitted infection, they should discuss their risks for complications in pregnancy with their health care providers. The American Sexual Health Association as well has backed the findings of the new study, said the experts. However, the study has some limitations as well. It has not examined how exactly being diagnosed with STIs before or during pregnancy can affect infants after they are born.
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