Getting treatment for chlamydia can prevent complications during pregnancy and infection transmission to the newborn during delivery.
Chlamydia is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by the bacteria Chlamydia trachomatis. It’s typically transmissible during oral, vaginal, or anal sex.
It can also be transmissible during childbirth, which can put the newborn at risk of eye and lung infections, explains Michelle Forcier, MD, a gender-affirming clinician with the virtual healthcare service FOLX.
“Chlamydia infections during pregnancy have been associated with preterm labor, premature rupture of membranes, and low birth weight,” she says.
Prompt diagnosis and treatment can reduce the risk of complications. And according to Adrienne Ton, a family nurse practitioner with the telehealth service TBD Health, the bacterial infection is incredibly easy to detect and treat.
Pregnant or not, the most common symptom of chlamydia is no symptom at all, says Ton. “Most people with chlamydia have zero symptoms,” she says.
When symptoms occur, they typically include:
- changes in vaginal discharge
- pain or bleeding during or after penetrative sex
- pelvic pain or discomfort
- itchiness or burning during urination
“Given all the physiologic changes that occur during pregnancy, it may be difficult for a pregnant person to recognize they have the STI without getting tested,” says Ton.
That’s why the
Regardless of pregnancy status, you can primarily contract chlamydia by having vaginal, anal, or oral sex with someone who has the infection, says Ton.
And the only way to know whether a sexual partner has chlamydia or another STI is to talk about it.
If it’s been a while since they last got screened or they’ve had other partners since then, consider getting tested together.
According to the
- are younger than 25 years old
- have more than one sexual partner
- have a new sexual partner during your pregnancy
- have a sexual partner who has other sexual partners
If you don’t know someone’s current STI status, using latex condoms or other barrier methods can help reduce the risk of potential STI transmission.
Important to note: Barriers made of porous materials like lambskin don’t protect against STIs. Transmission is also possible if you experience exposure to bodily fluids that contain the bacteria.
“Testing is usually done on a pregnant or nonpregnant person with a urine test or vaginal swab,” says Forcier.
Your doctor will send the sample to a lab so that experts can test it for chlamydia bacteria. It usually takes 2–5 business days to receive your results.
“Chlamydia is typically treated during pregnancy with an antibiotic called azithromycin,” says Ton. A single dose of oral azithromycin (Zithromax) is typically enough to clear the infection right up.
If you’re allergic to azithromycin (Zithromax), your clinician may prescribe oral cefixime (Suprax) or intramuscular ceftriaxone (Rocephin).
Your clinician will likely ask you to return in 3–4 weeks for a ”test of cure” to determine whether the antibiotics cleared the infection.
Forcier explains that it’s common for people to contract chlamydia again after engaging in sexual activity with a partner who hasn’t received or completed treatment for the STI.
“The reason why widespread chlamydia screening protocols were implemented was to prevent potential complications from chlamydia during pregnancy,” says Michael Ingber, MD, board certified urologist and female pelvic medicine specialist with The Center for Specialized Women’s Health in New Jersey.
“Treating the infection promptly will reduce the risk of [these] pregnancy issues at the hand of the chlamydia infection,” says Ingber.
Treating the infection at the time of birth can help prevent its transmission to the newborn during delivery. This can lower the newborn’s risk of eye and lung conditions like conjunctivitis and pneumonia.
People aren’t more likely to contract chlamydia during pregnancy. But without infection treatment, there are additional risks to consider.
If you think you’ve experienced exposure to chlamydia or another STI, consult with a doctor or another healthcare professional as soon as possible.
Clearing the infection before delivery can reduce the risk of chlamydia-related complications for the newborn.
Gabrielle Kassel (she/her) is a queer sex educator and wellness journalist who is committed to helping people feel the best they can in their bodies. In addition to Healthline, her work has appeared in publications such as Shape, Cosmopolitan, Well+Good, Health, Self, Women’s Health, Greatist, and more! In her free time, Gabrielle can be found coaching CrossFit, reviewing pleasure products, hiking with her border collie, or recording episodes of the podcast she co-hosts called Bad In Bed. Follow her on Instagram @Gabriellekassel.