Chlamydia, among the most common sexually transmitted diseases, affects an estimated 100,000 pregnant women each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This disease not only poses substantial risks to women but also to their babies during delivery. In fact, it's one of the leading causes of infections affecting newborns' eyes and respiratory system. If you are at risk for or have this disease, it's vital that you receive prompt treatment before you give birth.
The infectious agent causing chlamydia is a bacterium called Chlamydia trachomatis. Symptoms in women, which usually present within three weeks of being infected, include a burning sensation during urination and vaginal discharge. If the bacteria makes its way into the fallopian tubes, you could develop effects such as nausea, low back pain, fever and abdominal pain. Most infected people do not experience any symptoms. This allows complications, such as pelvic inflammatory disease, to develop. Having pelvic inflammatory disease increases your chances of being infertile or having an ectopic pregnancy. You may also be more likely to give birth preterm.
Whether delivered early or after normal gestation, having untreated chlamydia poses health risks to your newborn's eyes. He could have an eye infection known as inclusion conjunctivitis. Approximately 25 to 50 percent of newborns with chlamydia develop this form of pink eye, according to the BabyCenter website. Babies born with a chlamydia infection affecting the eye develop a pus discharge and redness. Eyelid swelling is also a sign. These effects typically present within five to 12 days after a baby is born. Your infant must take oral antibiotics to get rid of the infection.
Exposure to the bacteria during childbirth could lead to infection of the respiratory tract, causing infant pneumonia. Dr. Joel Schwab, a pediatrician affiliated with the University of Chicago Medical Center, reports that 5 percent to 20 percent of babies infected with chlamydia will develop pneumonia within one to three months following birth. About half of these infants also have a history of pink eye. Signs of pneumonia to look for include rapid breathing, nasal congestion and coughing. Your baby may not have a fever. Because this form of pneumonia is caused by bacteria, antibiotics are required for treatment. Respiratory failure is possible if left untreated.
If you are pregnant and already have chlamydia, the only way to prevent it from affecting your baby is get the infection treated during gestation. Antibiotics get rid of the infection and do not pose health risks to your unborn child. Your partner will likely receive treatment as well. You should refrain from engaging in sexual activity during treatment and up to a week after completion, depending on what medication schedule your doctor prescribes. In addition to the typical first trimester testing for the disease, your doctor may test you again later in the pregnancy to ensure treatment worked and you haven't been reinfected.