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STD & STI Information

Sexually active? For your own safety, you need to know about STDs/STIs and particularly how they relate to pregnancy.

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are also called sexually transmitted diseases, or STDs. STIs are usually spread by having vaginal, oral, or anal sex. More than 9 million women in the United States are diagnosed with an STI each year.1 

Nearly 20 million people in the United States get an STD each year and more than 65 million people are currently living with an incurable STD.2 These infections affect women and men of all backgrounds and economic levels. But half of all new infections are among young people 15 to 24 years old.2

While both men and women in the U.S. are diagnosed with sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in about equal numbers, they are not affected by STIs equally. For example, women are more likely than men to experience long-term health complications from untreated STIs, including infertility (the inability to have a baby). A pregnant woman can also pass an STI along to her baby during pregnancy or childbirth

According to the Office on Women’s Health, women often have more serious health problems from STIs than men:

  • Chlamydia and gonorrhea, left untreated, raise the risk of chronic pelvic pain and life-threatening ectopic pregnancy. Chlamydia and gonorrhea also can cause infertility.
  • Untreated syphilis in pregnant women results in infant death up to 40% of the time.3
  • Women have a higher risk than men of getting an STI during unprotected vaginal sex. Unprotected anal sex puts women at even more risk for getting an STI than unprotected vaginal sex.

Problems during pregnancy: STIs pose a number of serious risks to a pregnant woman’s unborn child, from low birth weight, brain damage, blindness, deafness, and even stillbirth (death of the child). STIs can pass from the mother to the baby during pregnancy and during delivery. For this reason, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that pregnant women be tested on their first prenatal visit for STIs, including chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, HIV and hepatitis B. While there is a risk that women with herpes and HIV can pass their infection on to the baby, there are steps they can take to greatly reduce this risk. Strategies to reduce HIV transmission are particularly effective and have reduced the mother-to-child transmission rate in the United States and Europe to less than 1%. (Resource)

STD/STI Prevention

Abstaining from sex or intimate physical contact including oral contact is the only way to be 100% confident of avoiding STD/STI infection.

Sexual Exposure Chart

To prevent getting a sexually transmitted disease, or STD, always avoid sex with anyone who has genital sores, a rash, discharge, or other symptoms. The only time unprotected sex is safe is if you and your partner have sex only with each other, and if it’s been at least six months since you each tested negative for STDs.

Proper use of condoms with each act of sexual intercourse can reduce, but not eliminate, the risk of STDs. Use latex condoms every time you have sex. If you use a lubricant, make sure it’s water-based. Use condoms for the entire sex act. Condoms are not 100% effective at preventing disease or pregnancy. However, they are extremely effective if used properly. They must be used consistently and correctly each time to reduce the risk of infection. Remember that condom use does not ensure that you will be protected.

Prevention through avoiding exposure is the best strategy for controlling the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2013). Incidence, Prevalence, and Cost of Sexually Transmitted Infections in the United States(PDF, 1.6 MB).
  2. Satterwhite, C.L., et al. (2013). Sexually transmitted infections among U.S. women and men: Prevalence and incidence estimates, 2008Sexually Transmitted Diseases;40(3): 187–193.
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2017). Syphilis – CDC Fact Sheet.

Our Centers do not offer, recommend or refer for abortions or abortifacients. We are committed to offering accurate information about abortion procedures and risks.

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