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How Is Syphilis Transmitted?

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  • According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), women who fall under certain categories must undergo another syphilis screening test during the third trimester (28 to 32 weeks gestation) and again during delivery
  • Untreated syphilis in pregnant women results in nearly 40 percent of cases of infant death

Syphilis can be transmitted via direct contact with a syphilis sore (chancre) during vaginal, anal or oral sex. The sores can develop on or around the penis, vagina or anus, or in the rectum, on the lips or in the mouth. You may also be infected with syphilis by sharing sex toys with a partner, via a blood transfusion or from direct contact with an active lesion.1,2,3,4

Because some symptoms appear harmless and most people don’t recognize them, it’s possible for the infection to be transmitted by someone who doesn’t know that they even have syphilis. In some cases, the infection can be passed on after initial indicators have disappeared.5

Syphilis Can Be Passed on During Pregnancy

Pregnant women infected with syphilis can transmit the STD to their unborn baby, and raise the infant’s risk for congenital syphilis. This is why pregnant women are advised to be tested for syphilis particularly during the first prenatal visit, to hopefully protect the baby and lower the risk of this infection. If you’re pregnant and test positive for syphilis, immediate treatment is crucial.6

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), aside from the prenatal test, another syphilis screening exam during the third trimester (28 to 32 weeks’ gestation) and delivery must be done in women who:7

  • Have a high syphilis risk
  • Live in areas of high syphilis morbidity
  • Were previously untested for syphilis
  • Had a positive screening test during the first trimester
  • Delivered a stillborn infant after 20 weeks of gestation

Beware: Syphilis Can Be Dangerous in Babies

A baby with congenital syphilis may be born without signs of this illness. Despite this, you should have your child checked immediately because if left untreated, the infection can trigger serious health problems and even death. Statistics show that infant death occurs in up to 40 percent of cases wherein a mother was not treated for syphilis. To lower this risk, babies born to mothers with syphilis during their pregnancy must be examined thoroughly and checked for disease indicators.8


Syphilis: Introduction

What Is Syphilis?

Tuskegee Syphilis Study

Congenital Syphilis

Syphilis Stages

Syphilis Causes

Syphilis Transmission

Syphilis Symptoms

Syphilis Treatment

Syphilis Testing

Syphilis Prevention

Syphilis FAQ

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