Treating and Preventing Chlamydia When Pregnant
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Chlamydia Treatment & Prevention in Pregnancy

Chlamydia and pregnancy

Highlights

  1. Pregnant mothers can pass chlamydia on to their babies.
  2. Pregnant women with chlamydia may cause other disorders to develop in their unborn children.
  3. Antibiotics may be effective in treating chlamydia but could also harm an unborn child.

Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) can be dangerous during pregnancy. Pregnant women may pass STDs onto their unborn children.

In the case of chlamydia, it may cause inflammation of the eyes and pneumonia in newborns.

It’s important that all pregnant women get screened for STDs in their first trimester. You may have an infection and not know it.

The earlier you are diagnosed, the sooner you can find ways to ensure you won’t pass on the infection to your baby.

Read more: Chlamydia Infection »

Risk factors and symptoms

Women are more likely to be diagnosed with chlamydia than men. You’re also more likely to contract it if you’ve had multiple sexual partners.

Sexually active women under the age of 25 are at the highest risk. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends annual screening.

Eighty to ninety percent of women who have chlamydia don’t show symptoms, according to the CDC. If symptoms are present, they may include:

  • burning sensation when urinating
  • yellow or green discharge from the vagina
  • lower abdomen pain
  • pain when having sexual intercourse

Be sure to see your doctor immediately if you have any of these symptoms.

How should chlamydia be treated during pregnancy?

Treatment for chlamydia should begin as soon as possible after diagnosis. Antibiotics may be used to relieve symptoms and treat the infection. However, it’s important to speak with your doctor about whether antibiotics would be effective for you.

You’ll also want to make sure that any side effects you experience won’t harm your unborn child. For example, antibiotic medications can change bacteria that normally inhabit the vagina or bowels. This may make it easier to get yeast infections.

Read more: Antibiotics: Which Drugs Can Harm Your Unborn Baby? »

It is possible to have an allergic reaction to a drug used to treat chlamydia. Everyone’s body is different, and sometimes people report side effects to certain drugs.

The CDC recommends that healthcare providers should give medication for chlamydia in a doctor’s office. It’s important to make sure there isn’t a reaction after the first dose.

Antibiotics to use during pregnancy

For treatment of chlamydia during pregnancy, the CDC recommends erythromycin or amoxicillin.

Side effects of erythromycin may include:

  • skin rash
  • diarrhea
  • nausea or vomiting
  • difficulty breathing
  • irregular heart beat or chest pain
  • mouth ulcers
  • inflammation of the liver

If you are prescribed erythromycin you will need to be re-tested three weeks after you finish taking the medication.

Side effects of amoxicillin include:

  • skin rash
  • diarrhea
  • difficulty breathing
  • trouble passing urine
  • seizures
  • dizziness
  • headache
  • upset stomach

Azithromycin is another alternative. Bad reactions to single-dose azithromycin are rare. Side effects that have been reported include:

  • diarrhea
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • abdominal pain
  • rash

The CDC considers azithromycin to be a second-line therapy during pregnancy. However, because it is tolerated well and is easy to take it is becoming a common treatment for chlamydia. This is true even for women who aren’t pregnant.

Antibiotics to avoid during pregnancy

Doxycycline and ofloxacin should not be used during pregnancy because they may interfere with fetal development. Doxycycline can discolor a baby's teeth. Ofloxacin may inhibit DNA formation and may injure a baby's connective tissue.

Side effects of doxycycline that women may experience include:

  • diarrhea
  • nausea or vomiting
  • liver toxicity
  • esophageal ulcers
  • rash

Side effects of ofloxacin that women may experience include:

  • diarrhea
  • nausea or vomiting
  • headache
  • insomnia
  • restlessness
  • dizziness
  • liver toxicity
  • seizure

For women who aren’t pregnant

For women with chlamydia who aren’t pregnant the CDC recommends azithromycin or doxycycline.

The advantage of azithromycin is that it’s administered in a single dose. Doxycycline must be taken for seven days.

Other alternatives for treating chlamydial infection include:

  • erythromycin (Ery-Tab, PCE)
  • erythromycin ethylsuccinate (EES)
  • ofloxacin (Floxin)

Preventing further spread of infection

To minimize the risk of transmitting chlamydia, you should abstain from sexual intercourse until you’ve completed treatment.

Also, as soon as you’ve been diagnosed it’s best to contact your sexual partners during the 60 days before your were tested. It is strongly suggested these sexual partners also be tested.

The most reliable way to prevent chlamydia is to abstain from sex while you are being treated.

Some methods to prevent being infected with chlamydia include:

  • using condoms
  • limiting the number of sexual partners
  • getting regular screenings

If your partner is infected, using a condom is recommended to protect yourself against infection, although it’s not 100 percent effective.

Outlook

Chlamydia is a curable STD and can be treated with antibiotics. However, if you’re pregnant, it’s best to speak with your doctor about which options would be best for you.

Be sure to get screened for STDs in your first trimester of pregnancy and be aware of the possible side effects of any antibiotics you are taking.

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