Protecting Your Baby from STDs

AIDS Awareness

AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome) is one of the most frightening STDs today. Many women in the United States are living with HIV (the human immunodeficiency virus that causes AIDS), and many do not know it.

While unprotected sex is still the most common method of contracting the virus, intravenous drug use has become another frequent source of infection. Pregnant women who have the virus can pass it on to their babies during pregnancy, delivery, or breastfeeding.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the March of Dimes both recommend that all pregnant women be offered counseling and voluntary testing for HIV. Moms-to-be who have the virus can now get treatment to protect their unborn babies. New drug treatments have been shown to reduce the risk of a treated mother's passing HIV on to her baby to 2 percent or less, compared with 15 to 25 percent of untreated mothers. Women who have high levels of the virus in their blood may also need cesarean delivery.

You can protect your baby from sexually transmitted diseases by making sure you don't get one during pregnancy or, if you do, by following through with all recommended treatment. It's also important to tell your doctor if you have been diagnosed with an STD in the past so that she can take the steps necessary to prevent future problems. By working with your doctor, you can help ensure that STDs won't harm your unborn baby.

Richard H. Schwarz, MD, obstetrical consultant to the March of Dimes, is past president of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists; Vice Chairman for Clinical Services, Maimonides Medical Center; and Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, SUNY Downstate Medical Center, both in Brooklyn.

All content here, including advice from doctors and other health professionals, should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your won health or the health of others.

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