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Dr. Andrea Pinto Lopez

Jul 06, 20227 min read

STDs and Babies

The information provided herein does not constitute an expert or medical advice, nor intended to replace such advice.


STDs can lead to adverse health outcomes for pregnant women and newborn babies, but not all STDs are the same. Keep reading to learn more about STDs in babies.

Do newborns get tested for STDs?

Prenatal STD testing is routinely recommended for all pregnant women, including tests for:

  • Hepatitis B
  • Hepatitis C
  • HIV
  • Syphilis

If you develop any signs of an STD during pregnancy, you should get tested as soon as possible. This can help prevent different complications for you and your baby, such as preterm labor, low birth weight, and neonatal infections.

Your baby will probably be tested for STDs if you had one of these infections during pregnancy and/or delivery, if you’re showing signs of an STD at the time of childbirth, if you haven’t been tested before, or if you have other risk factors for an STD.


Can syphilis be passed to a baby?

Yes. According to the CDC, congenital syphilis occurs when a woman passes the syphilis infection to her baby during pregnancy, which can cause the baby to be born with syphilis. Syphilis can be passed to the baby whether the mother acquires the infection before or during pregnancy. 

Can syphilis be treated during pregnancy?

Fortunately, yes. According to the American Pregnancy Association, syphilis during pregnancy can be easily treated with penicillin G. 

Symptoms of syphilis in babies

According to the MSD Manuals, newborns with syphilis may not show any signs of disease at first. Symptoms of syphilis in newborns can be divided into stages:

  • Early congenital syphilis: during the first 3 months of life, babies may develop blisters or a copper-colored rash on palms and soles, diaper area, and around the nose and mouth. Babies with syphilis may not grow properly, and their lymph nodes, liver and spleen can become enlarged. Congenital syphilis usually affects the bones and cartilage, which can alter mobility and growth. Babies can also develop meningitis, seizures, and intellectual disabilities.
  • Late congenital syphilis: this stage occurs after the baby is 2 years old. It can cause sores around the eyes and mouth, eye inflammation leading to vision loss, and problems in the development of the teeth and bones. Deafness is also a possible consequence of late congenital syphilis.


Can you be born with gonorrhea?

A woman can give gonorrhea to her baby during delivery due to contact with the birth canal. According to the CDC, gonorrhea can cause other pregnancy complications, including:

  •  Miscarriage
  • Premature birth
  • Low birth weight
  • Premature rupture of membranes
  • Chorioamnionitis

Congenital gonorrhea can cause health problems in babies, including:

  • Gonococcal conjunctivitis
  • Scalp infections
  • Respiratory infections
  • Meningitis
  • Arthritis
  • Sepsis


Can you be born with chlamydia?

Similarly to gonorrhea, babies can get chlamydia from their mothers during vaginal delivery. According to Children’s Minnesota, symptoms of chlamydia in newborns include eye infections and pneumonia.

Chlamydia and childbirth

If you have an STD that can be transmitted to your baby at the time of delivery, your doctor could recommend a scheduled C-section instead. This can help keep you and your baby safe from complications. 

You can learn more about at-home STD testing during pregnancy at STDWatch.com.


Congenital Syphilis Fact Sheet - cdc.gov

Syphilis During Pregnancy - americanpregnancy.org

Symptoms of Syphilis in Newborns - msdmanuals.com 

Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) - Detailed Fact Sheet - cdc.gov

CHLAMYDIA IN NEWBORNS - childrensmn.org

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