Your Repeated Miscarriages Might Be As A Result Of Untreated Gonorrhea: Experts Give Insight Into This Situation And How It Can Be Tackled
It’s well known that sexually transmitted infections during pregnancy can sometimes be linked to miscarriages, but the risk is different for each type of infection. What’s the risk of gonorrhea?
According to experts, untreated gonorrhea in pregnancy may likely cause repeated miscarriage; and eye infection in children where such pregnancies are carried to term. This might lead to blindness in the newborn, they warn.
The experts also assert that pregnant women with gonorrhea are at risk of pre-term birth — a leading cause of under-five mortality globally, according to the World Health Organisation.
In light of this, researchers have asked pregnant women infected with gonorrhea not to ignore it.
Speaking with PUNCH Healthwise, a Senior Lecturer at the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, College of Medicine, University of Lagos, Dr. Ochuwa Babah, said gonorrhea is worth treating among expectant mothers, considering the complications associated with it if left untreated.
Dr Babah spoke against the backdrop of a study published in the Journal of American Sexually Transmitted Diseases Association, which found that about 50 percent of untreated maternal gonorrhea infections are transmitted to the neonate during birth, which they say could cause eye and lower respiratory tract infections.
The expert said pregnant women with the infection should avoid self-medication, urging them to seek proper medical care from qualified medical personnel to avoid the drugs having further negative impact on their babies.
The consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist, explained,
“Gonorrhea infection is one of the sexually transmitted diseases. In the past, there used to be this general belief that sexually transmitted diseases cannot occur in pregnancy.
“But we now have evidence to show that they do occur in pregnancy. Gonorrhea in particular is an infection that can occur in about zero to 14.2 percent of pregnancy. The prevalence varies from place to place, depending on behavioral attitude of the people.
“Gonorrhea is not as common as Chlamydia trachomatis, which is another sexually transmitted disease. But it has been found to impact adversely on pregnancy, both in women that have HIV and even in women that do not have HIV.
“Commonest of these complications is the occurrence of continuous miscarriage. It starts with vaginal bleeding and some abdominal cramp and before you know it, the bleeding becomes heavy and by the time the woman gets to the hospital, she would be told she has lost the pregnancy. This usually happens at the early stage of the pregnancy.”
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Researchers say gonococcal eye infections can result in corneal damage and blindness if left untreated; and that untreated STIs in pregnancy are associated with adverse outcomes in the neonate, such as conjunctivitis, pneumonia, sepsis and infant death. Dr. Babah said,
“This infection spreads upward from the vagina towards the cervix and then towards the uterus. It weakens the membrane surrounding the baby.
“When the weak membrane gets torn, the water drains out. So, the woman can present with what we call premature rupture of membrane.
“Also, the infection might spread to the uterine lining and cause irritation that will trigger contraction and the woman will go into early labour. If the infection becomes overwhelming, it can affect the baby to the extent of killing the baby. At the end of the day, the baby dies in the womb.”
The gynaecologist noted that babies that are born alive might develop certain health problems.
“They are likely to develop infection and this infection, if it spreads to the brain, can cause neonatal meningitis. The baby may have inflammation of the eye.”
Babah pointed out that Chlamydia trachomatis and gonorrhea have been found to be independently factored for certain complications that can occur in pregnancy.
The senior lecturer emphasised that gonorrhea in pregnancy requires proper treatment to achieve full cure, adding that vaginal discharge is the commonest mode of presentation in women with the infection.
The maternal health expert affirmed that if diagnosed, gonorrhea can be effectively treated, urging women who have been treated to ensure that their husbands are also treated to avoid re-infection.
She, however, said that while pregnant women are screened for sexually transmitted diseases such as syphilis, HIV and Hepatitis B during antenatal clinics, gonorrhea is not part of routine screening in antenatal clinics yet.
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Another study, published in the European Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology and Reproductive Biology, says STIs, particularly during pregnancy, are neglected health issues despite the negative impact on feto-maternal and infant outcomes.
According to the study authors, Chlamydia trachomatis and gonorrhoeae are the commonest sexually transmitted infections in pregnancy, and usually cause significant morbidity if left untreated.
“Screening for sexually transmitted infections in pregnancy is necessary, as chlamydial and gonococcal genital infections in women are largely asymptomatic and up to 50 percent of infected pregnant women could be asymptomatic.
“Women with asymptomatic, untreated sexually transmitted infections in pregnancy have 3.3 times higher risk of a preterm delivery, compared to those that received treatment,”
the researchers said.
The World Health Organisation says, with over one million sexually transmitted infections occurring daily globally, it is vital for countries to tackle this challenge in order to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal 3 on universal access to sexual and reproductive healthcare services.