Your Pregnancy Matters

What if I have an infectious disease and want to get pregnant?

Your Pregnancy Matters

The health of a woman who is considering pregnancy will impact her baby’s health. Infectious diseases – such as hepatitis, measles, and various sexually transmitted diseases – are no different and can affect anyone regardless of age, ethnicity, and gender.

For women who have an infectious disease and are pregnant, early intervention is important. Once we know the disease is present, we can manage it. We have many local experts who can treat moms-to-be and increase the chances of them delivering a healthy baby.

What we screen for during pregnancy and why

Early in a pregnancy, we check for many types of infections. These kinds of tests are given to all our patients, even those who are considered “low-risk.” Some tests are required by state law.

Patients are routinely tested for the following infections:
  • HIV
  • Gonorrhea
  • Chlamydia
  • Syphilis
We also check for prior infection or immunity to hepatitis B and rubella. Some tests may be repeated before a patient delivers to make sure no new infection has been acquired. The state of Texas has laws requiring testing for HIV, syphilis, and hepatitis B during pregnancy.

Our goal, of course, is to ensure that the mom-to-be and her baby are as healthy as possible. If an infection is present during pregnancy, we have different treatment options available. In some cases, we can use medication to improve the condition of the patient.

We always balance any potential risk that a medication might pose to the unborn baby with the risk of the infection worsening and causing complications during pregnancy or leading to an infection in the newborn. Our goal in treating the infection is to have a healthy baby and a healthy mom.

Sexually transmitted diseases increasing

Sexually transmitted diseases, or STDs (sometimes called sexually transmitted infections, or STIs), that may impact women who are considering pregnancy include HIV, syphilis, chlamydia, gonorrhea, hepatitis, and herpes.

In particular, the problem of people with HIV is real and increasing. Approximately 15,000 people in Dallas County are living with HIV/AIDS, a 62 percent increase since 2002. We see 80 to 100 births annually by women with HIV in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. And data shows that it affects people of all ages and ethnic groups.
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Source: Profile of HIV in Dallas County, 2012; Dallas County Health and Human Services

For women who are HIV-positive and receive treatment, there’s only a 1 percent chance the baby will be born with HIV. If left untreated, that chance rises to around 25 percent.

Some women with HIV will have more than one child. In a 2014 study, we evaluated 100 women who had been pregnant twice. We found that the better a woman’s HIV infection is controlled before and during pregnancy, the more likely it is that the virus won’t be passed on to either child.

We’ve come a long way in treating HIV. People – and that includes babies – can still have long and healthy lives.

Going forward

If you have an infectious disease, a successful pregnancy is possible. We know that the interventions we use can decrease the rate of transmission to the child. And those interventions improve the mother’s health, too.

The most important step is to find a specialist before getting pregnant to help you manage this pregnancy and disease.

At UT Southwestern Medical Center and at the new William P. Clements Jr. University Hospital in Dallas, we can help women with infectious diseases have a successful pregnancy and healthy baby.