Sexually transmitted diseases (STIs) are prevalent and may cause complications in many, especially pregnant women. So, women should take care of and protect themselves during pregnancy against STIs.

It is also a good idea for all pregnant women to screen themselves for STIs during the first trimester. This will ensure that you were not infected before getting pregnant.

Moreover, it is also possible to transmit the infection to the developing baby during pregnancy. Chlamydia can cause inflammation of the lungs and eyes in newborns.

But the good news is early diagnosis and treatment lowers the risk of complications and prevents transmission to the baby.

If you are pregnant, it is best to consult your doctor and get screened for chlamydia.

Chlamydia in Pregnancy

While STIs can affect anyone, sexually active women below 25 years are at a higher risk. These women are prone to chlamydia and gonorrhea.

Pregnant women can also transfer the infection to their baby, which may cause certain complications in the newborn.

So, all pregnant women are recommended to screen themselves for chlamydia during the first trimester along with the antenatal check-up.

Effects of Chlamydia

Most of the patients with chlamydia have no symptoms. During pregnancy, there is no evidence that chlamydia may cause miscarriage. However, it may cause discharge, bleeding, or abdominal pain after sex.

A chlamydia infection may also cause your water to break early or preterm labor, which means labor starts three weeks before the due date.

It can also infect your fallopian tubes and uterus, resulting in a condition known as a pelvic inflammatory disease. This inflammation may cause future problems such as ectopic pregnancy, fertility disorders, and long-standing abdominal pains.

Symptoms

Chlamydia is a silent condition and does not cause symptoms in most cases. In cases where they are present, symptoms usually appear after a few weeks. 

Some common symptoms are:

  • Green or yellow discharge from the vagina
  • Pain during sexual intercourse
  • A burning sensation when urinating
  • Lower abdominal pain

If you have any of the mentioned symptoms, it is best to consult your doctor, especially if you are pregnant.

Infections to Babies During Delivery

During delivery, chlamydia may affect your baby and cause eye and lung infections. It does not spread through blood and thus cannot affect your baby before you go into labor.

It is seen that about 50% of the babies born to mothers with chlamydia get the infection in the eyes or lungs.

Effects on Organs – Eyes, Lungs

It mainly affects the eyes and lungs of the newborn.

Chlamydia in Eye

If the baby’s eyes come in contact with the bacteria, it may result in an eye infection, known as chlamydial conjunctivitis

Some common symptoms include:

  • Swelling of the eyelid
  • Irritation
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Redness
  • Itching
  • Yellowish-green eye discharge or mucus

Pneumonia

Chlamydia can affect the lungs and result in pneumonia. Some common symptoms include:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Coughing
  • Sleepiness
  • Fast breathing
  • Fever

Treatment

Your doctor will start your treatment as soon as you are diagnosed to prevent complications.

As chlamydia is a bacterial infection, antibiotics can help treat it and relieve symptoms. However, not all antibiotics can be used for everyone, and it is thus best to consult your doctor to know which medicine would work best for you.

Besides, the doctor will also make sure that the medicine does not cause adverse effects in you or harm the developing child.

For instance, doxycycline cannot be used during the last two trimesters of pregnancy. You may also develop an allergic reaction to the medicine used to manage chlamydia. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) thus recommends that the physician gives the first dose in their office. This aids in ensuring that you do not get a reaction after taking the medicine. 

Lastly, antibiotics can change the bacteria that usually inhabit the bowels or vagina, increasing the risk of yeast infections.

Antibiotics that can be used during pregnancy

The mentioned three antibiotics are recommended for the treatment of chlamydia during pregnancy:

Many studies have shown that azithromycin is effective and safe. However, some adverse effects include:

  • Nausea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Rash

Side effects of erythromycin are:

  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Chest pain
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Inflammation of the liver
  • Skin rash
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Difficulty breathing

Some side effects of amoxicillin include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Trouble passing urine
  • Dizziness
  • Upset stomach
  • Skin rash
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Seizures
  • Headache

Generally, pregnant women are recommended to be tested again three months after the treatment.

Antibiotics to avoid during pregnancy

The following antibiotics should be avoided during pregnancy as they affect the baby’s development:

  • Doxycycline: It can discolor the baby’s teeth
  • Ofloxacin: It can inhibit DNA formation and affect the connective tissue

Some side effects of doxycycline include:

  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Esophageal ulcers
  • Diarrhea
  • Liver toxicity
  • Rash

Some side effects of ofloxacin include:

  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Sleep problems
  • Dizziness
  • Seizures
  • Diarrhea
  • Headache
  • Restlessness
  • Liver problems

For women who are not pregnant

If the woman is not pregnant and has chlamydia, she can take any antibiotic, provided there is no history of allergy. Commonly used antibiotics are:

  • Azithromycin: Usually prescribed to be taken in a single large dose
  • Doxycycline: To be taken twice a day for a week

Prevention Is Key

The surest and the best way to prevent spreading or contracting chlamydia infection is to use a condom during sex.

It is recommended to:

  • Use a condom, especially with each new partner
  • Avoid having oral sex unless the partner is screened for STIs
  • Get screened regularly
  • Limit the number of sexual partners
  • Correct and consistent use of condoms
  • Avoid sex until the treatment is complete
  • Get tested if you are pregnant or planning to conceive

To reduce the risk of transmitting and contracting chlamydia, avoid sexual intercourse until you complete the treatment.

Final Thoughts

Chlamydia is a common but easily curable sexually transmitted infection, which can be treated with antibiotics. Pregnant women can also transfer the infection to the baby, which may cause eye or lung infection.

So, if you are pregnant, it is best to screen yourself for chlamydia. If you are diagnosed with chlamydia and get pregnant, you can talk to your doctor about the choice of antibiotic.

All in all, screen yourself in the first trimester of pregnancy and be aware of the antibiotics you are taking and their possible side effects.

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