Is it true that more babies are being born with congenital syphilis? Why would this be happening?
Today's topic is not a happy one to deal with, but it's important that you be informed and that you know what to do in the rare case that you -- and your unborn child -- are at risk.
A study released in April 2010 by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) revealed that higher percentages of babies are being born with congenital syphilis. Specifically, the study reported that "after declining for 14 years, the rate of congenital syphilis among infants under 1 year of age increased 23 percent, from 8.2 cases per 100,000 live births in 2005 to 10.1 during 2008."
In light of this information, you may be wondering if this could happen to your baby. There's no need to panic, but be aware that -- as with most health-related conditions -- prevention is key. So let's take a look at what you can do to avoid this disease if you're pregnant or planning to become pregnant.
Congenital syphilis is caused by a species of bacterium called Treponema pallidum, which is transmitted to the newborn during fetal development or at birth. So the first step for prevention is to avoid contracting this sexually transmitted disease (STD) altogether by following safer sex practices.
According to the latest CDC report, as the percentage of pregnant women with syphilis has increased, so has the number of newborns with the disease. While routine blood tests for syphilis are the norm during pregnancy, if you suspect that you may have an STD, you should see your doctor immediately. The unfortunate reality is that about half of the newborns infected with syphilis in the womb die at birth or shortly thereafter.
If the disease is diagnosed at the time of birth, both your baby and the placenta will be examined for syphilis. If you suspect that your newborn may have contracted congenital syphilis after birth, look for these possible symptoms and consult with your health-care provider right away if you spot any of them:
â€¢ Inability to gain weight
â€¢ Rashes with a flat or bumpy appearance, or small blisters on the palms and soles
â€¢ Skin ulcers on the mouth, genitals or anus
â€¢ Yellowish skin
â€¢ Various deformities
(Note: Some infants may develop the symptoms two or three weeks after birth.)
While it can be very daunting to confront the realities of serious diseases and disorders, it is an expectant mother's responsibility to be informed and educated about how best to ensure a healthy pregnancy.
Pregnant women who are infected with syphilis are undoubtedly putting their babies at serious risk -- one that includes bone deformities, nerve damage, deafness and possibly even death! But it doesn't have to come to that: Treating the expectant mother lowers the risk of passing the disease to the baby and provides the opportunity for treating the baby with penicillin during the pregnancy, further minimizing his or her risk of developing congenital syphilis.
The best news is that you can do something to prevent it, by avoiding risky sexual behavior and having adequate prenatal care starting early in your pregnancy.