Effects of STDs
It's a Long, Long List
Unfortunately, the list of sexually transmitted diseases is a long one. These infections affect millions of people worldwide and are in epidemic proportion in some countries. Most STDs are treatable; however, as with many infections that have become immune to antibiotics, some STDs are have become resistant to treatment and are much more difficult to handle today then they were even a decade ago. Such sexually transmitted diseases as herpes, AIDS, and genital warts are incurable, although they can be managed. Some are deadly - HIV/AIDS, hepatitis and herpes along with others have been known to take lives. One of the very sad ends to STDs is the effect they have upon pregnancy and unborn babies.
No Such Thing as Safe Sex
Although "safe sex" is a term often used to promote the use of condoms, the truth is that the only real safe sex is abstinence. However, sex within the context of a monogamous relationship where neither partner has an STD may be considered to be safe sex as well. Even kissing is a method of transmitting disease. Most people, especially young people, fail to realize that any exchange of body fluids or sexual contact, including kissing, oral-genital contact, and the use of vibrators and other sex toys, leaves them open to contracting a sexually transmitted disease. Syphilis, herpes and HIV are all passed through kissing. Condoms, often considered the way to safe sex, do not protect against Chlamydia, herpes, or trichomoniasis, neither do they offer much protection against HPV, which is the cause of genital warts.
Each STD has an effect upon the individual and, in the case of pregnant women, the unborn baby. Some infections are bacterial and some are viral. Many of the bacterial infections can be cured with antibiotics. The viral infections, for the most part, are incurable.
Chlamydia and Gonorrhea
Chlamydia and gonorrhea, two of the most common STDs, often appear together in infected individuals. They affect both men and women with similar symptoms of discharge from the vagina or penis, burning and itching when urinating and in women, pelvic pain. The long term damage for men and women is often sterility and infertility along with a host of other health issues. The possible consequences for unborn babies include:
· premature birth
· infant pneumonia
· neonatal eye infections, blindness
· septic arthritis
Hepatitis B (HPV) is often asymptomatic, meaning the symptoms are not always apparent. When they are, they manifest as fever, headache, muscle aches, fatigue, and loss of appetite, vomiting and diarrhea. Because hepatitis often affects the liver, additional symptoms include jaundice, abdominal pain and dark urine. This disease can lead to cirrhosis, liver cancer and immune system disorders.
Pregnant women can transmit this disease to their babies who can become chronic carriers themselves and are at risk for liver cancer and other liver diseases. The babies are also able to transmit the virus. There is a vaccination that can be given at birth to potentially eliminate the risk of chronic infection in the baby.
Herpes Simplex Virus
Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV-2), Genital Herpes is spread by skin-to-skin contact with the infection. There is no known cure for this disease and outbreaks, which can be mild at times, may include itching, burning, pain in the legs, buttocks or genital area, blisters or open sores, and vaginal discharge in women. If a person with active HSV-2 comes in contact with HIV it often leads to infection because the sores are open and allow for entry of the HIV virus.
Pregnant women who contract this infection and have their first episode during pregnancy may be at higher risk for premature delivery. If there is an outbreak, a c-section is performed to avoid infecting the baby. If this infection is passed to a newborn during the delivery, the result could be serious brain damage or death of the baby.
Perhaps the most deadly of STDs is HIV/AIDS. Life can now be prolonged for infected persons with the use of antiviral drugs and other treatments to fight opportunistic infections. However, it is a death sentence for those who contract it, either by the virus itself or by AIDS-related complications associated with illnesses.
Between 20 and 30 percent of infants born to women who are infected with the HIV virus develop AIDS symptoms within a year of birth. About 20 percent of these babies die by the age of 18 months. It is possible to reduce the risk to unborn babies by giving the mother antiviral drugs during pregnancy.
When a pregnant woman has an STD, the infection has more far-reaching effects than it would otherwise. The risk to the unborn baby is serious and the results can be devastating.
To learn more about sexually transmitted diseases, their symptoms, treatments and ways to prevent them, read here.