Some STIs can, unfortunately, lead to infertility and health problems for both yourself and your baby during and after pregnancy. In some cases, they can even be passed onto your baby. HIV, for example, has a 1 in 4 chance of being passed onto your child. Of course, this depends on the type of infection and whether or not it has been treated.
The more times you have a particular STI, the more likely you are to suffer from other problems. The two most common STIs in the UK are chlamydia and gonorrhoea and if they are left untreated, they can both lead to infertility in men and women. For example, chlamydia can result in pelvic inflammatory disease for women, which results in damaged and scarred fallopian tubes that prevent the egg from travelling to the womb. If you have chlamydia whilst pregnant, you might have a premature birth, a miscarriage or even a stillbirth. Gonorrhoea can also cause premature birth and miscarriage and might also lead to your unborn child having conjunctivitis. If you have had chlamydia or gonorrhoea before becoming pregnant and it was treated early, there is a low chance that you will be infertile (speak to a professional if you are unsure or would like to have a fertility test). Both these STIs can be safely treated with antibiotics.
Genital herpes is another very common STI and although it cannot be cured, it can be controlled with medication to reduce symptoms. It is safe to have a baby when you have genital herpes, however, there is a small risk your baby could develop a severe illness named ‘neonatal herpes’. This is more likely if you become infected with herpes during pregnancy. It’s important to tell your midwife if you know you have genital herpes.
It’s extremely important to practise safe sex and have regular sexual health check-ups, so that you don’t risk conceiving a child whilst infected. Most STIs can be treated and if caught early, you should still be able to have a baby.