I am pregnant with my second baby and just wanted to double check the risks to my baby of gonorrhea/ chlamydia.
The CDC fact sheet on gonorrhea says: “If a pregnant woman has gonorrhea, she may give the infection to her baby as the baby passes through the birth canal during delivery. This can cause blindness, joint infection, or a life-threatening blood infection in the baby”.
How common is the blindness or life-threatening blood infection?
Are these a direct result from gonorrhea, or are they secondary infections that could happen to a baby regardless of gonorrhea/ chlamydia?
Would there be clear signs (& would a doctor know) before a baby would go blind or get this blood infection?
You're worried about the wrong things. The way to prevent serious complications for the baby due to chlamydia or gonorrhea is to make sure the mother isn't infected; or, if she is, that she is treated before the baby is delivered.
If you are concerned about having gonorrhea or chlamydia -- for example, if you have reason to believe the baby's father is infected, or if you have had sex with someone else who might be at risk -- then discuss it with your obstetrician and make sure you are tested. (Most likely he or she will test you anyway -- gonorrhea and chlamydia testing are routine in all pregnant women. But a conversation will make sure it happens.) If you have negative tests, then there is no worry; or if you are infected, treatment will cure you and prevent any problem in the baby.
In reply to your specific questions: 1) These are rare problems for newborn babies in the US and other industrialized countries. 2) Often there are no signs that a doctor would notice. That's why you need to have a lab test.
I hope this information is helpful. Best wishes-- HHH, MD
I don't have reason to believe that gonorrhea or chlamydia will be in my pregnancy, however I was reading many things that can affect a baby when pregnant & thought I would seek clarification.
Could you please explain HOW gonorrhea could cause blindness or a blood infection in a baby?
Surely this couldn't happen without warning?
(I've read gonorrhea and chlamydia don't always show symptoms, so I want to be sure).
I had never heard before today that gonorrhea could be life-threatening, (in an adult OR baby).
Have you ever heard of this happening?
The only way gonorrhea infects the baby at all is by passing through an infected birth canal. In the pre-antibiotic era, exposure of the baby's eyes to the mother's infection resulted in infection that could not be treated (because there no were antibiotics) and over the next few weeks could result in scarring of the cornea, resulting in blindness.
Some of those infections starting in the eye, or an infection starting in the mouth or throat (acquired the same way) can spread into the bloodstream, resuliting in arthritis. Even this complication is easily treated with antibiotics, so no long term harm results.
Because of standard prevention practices, such infections are extremely rare in industrialized countries, and antibiotic treatment is highly effective. In the US, probably no baby has been blinded by gonorrhea or disabled by gonococcal arthritis for over 50 years.
In other words, you shouldn't be at all worried. You need to be careful what you read on the web -- the information can be alarming. When it is, I suggest you keep searching -- almost always you can find reassuring information that should reduce your fears about the earlier bad news. I would also suggest not reading about pregnancy problems for which you obviously are not at risk.
That will end this thread. Best wishes for you, your baby, and your growing family.
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