Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) are spread through unprotected sexual contact. Many people who have STIs do not know that they are infected because many STIs do not produce visible symptoms. Testing for STIs during pregnancy is very important, as some STIs can be passed on to the developing baby prenatally, during delivery, or during breastfeeding.
There are many different STIs, such as syphilis, chlamydia, gonorrhoea, nongonococcal urethritis, trichomoniasis, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, human papilloma virus, and genital herpes. Certain STIs can cause very serious damage to a baby. For example, untreated syphilis can cause brain damage, blindness, deafness or even death in the developing baby. Many STIs can be treated during pregnancy (e.g., chlamydia, gonorrhoea, syphilis). There are others that cannot be treated (e.g., genital herpes), but knowing a woman’s status presents the opportunity to reduce the risk of transmitting the infection to the baby. For this reason, testing for STIs informs health professionals of the woman’s condition, which can in turn, help to prevent the baby from becoming infected.