“We cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future” - Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Health is a determinant of productivity, longevity, and economic contribution. Therefore to ensure that our youth are healthy is to provide them with the opportunity to mould our nation’s future. Essentially, in the eyes of Roosevelt, to protect our youth is to protect our future.
For many people, sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are commonly associated with adults and teenagers. Never do we think that a baby as young as one could have an STI. The ugly truth is that this is a reality which New Zealanders have faced. The latest STI surveillance report conducted by the Ministry of Health in 2014 found that there were 83 cases of Chlamydia in infants and one case of gonorrhoea. This blog seeks to educate you on the different types of STIs that are transmitted during pregnancy, how they are transmitted and the possible dangers that infants face following transmission.
During pregnancy, certain STIs, such as Syphilis and HIV can cross the placenta and infect the baby in the womb. Whereas other STIs, such as gonorrhoea, chlamydia, hepatitis B, and genital herpes, can pass from the mother to the baby as the baby exits through the birth canal. The main threat to life associated with having an STI during pregnancy is premature labour. Not only does premature birth lead to long-term developmental and health problems in children, but it is believed to be the leading cause of infant death. Even if premature birth does not occur, infants who contract an STI from the mother remain susceptible to cases of blindness, deafness, meningitis, chronic liver disease, and pneumonia.
So, if you are pregnant and you do happen to test positive for an STI, what can you do?
STIs caused by bacteria, such as gonorrhoea and chlamydia can easily be treated with antibiotics that are safe to take during pregnancy i.e. Amoxicillin, Azithromycin, Erythromycin. However, STIs caused by viruses, such as HIV and herpes cannot be treated. In the case of herpes, if herpes sores are virally active at the start of labour, a caesarean section (C-section) is a plausible route of action to prevent transmission. In the case of HIV, antiviral medications can be prescribed to the pregnant mother, this may lower the risk of transmission to the baby to less than 1%, however, in some cases a caesarean may still be required.
Our recommendation to you is to stay in control of your sexual health, at all times. If you are sexually active, it is best to get checked regularly. Let’s work towards reducing STI transmission through optimising awareness and focusing on prevention.
Did you know that many STI's don't have symptoms? If left untreated they can seriously damage your fertility, health and life.
If you’re unsure what to do or if you’re worried about an STI, we’re here to help with safe and easy tests you can do at home.
Don’t risk your health!
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