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What Effects Does Gonorrhea Have on an Unborn Baby?

By Sharon Perkins ; Updated August 14, 2017

Gonorrhea, a sexually transmitted disease, affects around 13,000 pregnant women each year in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Gonorrhea poses risks for an unborn child both during the pregnancy and at the time of delivery. Treating gonorrhea with antibiotics is effective and safe during pregnancy and helps prevent long term complications. Symptoms of gonorrhea in women aren’t always obvious, but include yellowish discharge, pain while urinating and abnormal menstrual bleeding, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports.

Pregnancy Loss

Miscarriage rates increase in women with gonorrhea, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) states. Women who have gonorrhea often develop pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). PID increases the risk of an ectopic pregnancy, where the fetus implants in the fallopian tube rather than in the uterus. Since the tube is too small to support a fetus, tubal rupture and serious bleeding can result if the tube isn’t removed or the pregnancy dissolved with the use of chemotherapy medication.

Preterm Delivery

Babies born to mothers with gonorrhea are more likely to deliver prematurely, before 37 weeks, the March of Dimes reports. Preterm delivery in women with gonorrhea may be related to premature rupture of membranes, the bag of waters that surrounds the baby and helps protect him from infection.

Gonorrhea in the Newborn

Babies delivered vaginally can acquire gonorrhea from secretions in the vaginal tract. Signs of gonorrheal infection generally appear several days after delivery and include skin infections, respiratory infection, infection of the urethra or vagina and inflammation of the conjunctiva, the lining of the lower lid and sclera of the eye. Antibiotic eye ointments given right after birth prevent transmission of the infection to the eyes; gonorrhea can cause blindness in newborns, the Mayo Clinic states. Arthritis in the joints or meningitis, an infection of the covering of the brain, can occur if the disease spreads. A systemic blood infection, a life threatening complication, can also result.

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