Few pregnant women treated for sexually transmitted infections

Many pregnant women with sexually transmitted infections aren't getting the treatment they need when they visit emergency rooms, according to a new Michigan State University study that highlights a wholly preventable risk to unborn children and raises questions about current medical guidelines.

About half of the 735 women with or chlamydia who visited the ERs at three hospitals in Grand Rapids, Mich. from 2008 through 2010 did not get treatment there, despite the availability of effective and relatively inexpensive antibiotics. Of the 179 who were pregnant, only 20 percent received treatment in the ER.

The problem is that it takes a few days to get lab results for those infections and many women don't return for medication, said Roman Krivochenitser, a third-year student in MSU's College of Human Medicine and lead author of the paper, published in the . Ideally, doctors would be able to confirm a diagnosis and treat the patient while she's still in the ER, but such tests aren't yet available.

"A lot of patients leave a phone number that's disconnected, or they just don't pick up the phone," Krivochenitser said. "The doctors are doing everything right. It's just that we don't yet have the technology for on-the-spot testing."

Diagnosing sexually transmitted infections in pregnant women is especially challenging, he added, because the symptoms of infection overlap with the signs of pregnancy.

"You could do a very thorough workup to find out what's causing in a pregnant woman," said Krivochenitser. "But if you're pregnant, there's a certain amount of abdominal discomfort we expect."

Left untreated, the infections raise the risk of preterm delivery and , and can be passed on to the baby. The infections also can cause serious complications in the mother, such as , raising the risk of infertility and dangerous .

Such complications are rare, Krivochenitser said, but they're also avoidable.

"This is something we as health professionals can easily prevent with antibiotics," he said.

Krivochenitser said it may be time to re-evaluate guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for treating sexually transmitted infections in emergency rooms, where many patients go when they don't have insurance or a family physician. The CDC has safeguards in place to prevent doctors from overprescribing antibiotics, which can breed drug-resistant organisms.

"Still, if we're looking at the risks and benefits, there's a more immediate risk of a pregnant patient having gonorrhea or because it can have serious effects on the baby," Krivochenitser said. "When someone visits their family physician, there may be more time to weigh those risks, but things in the emergency department move twice as fast. We have to make very quick decisions."

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Gonorrhea resistant to all but one antibiotic: CDC

Aug 09, 2012

(HealthDay) -- With options shrinking to a single antibiotic that can fight resistant strains of gonorrhea, U.S. health authorities issued revised guidelines for treating the sexually transmitted bacteria ...

Recommended for you

US looking past Ebola to prepare for next outbreak

1 hour ago

The next Ebola or the next SARS. Maybe even the next HIV. Even before the Ebola epidemic in West Africa is brought under control, U.S. public health officials are girding for the next health disaster.

Can robots help stop the Ebola outbreak?

10 hours ago

The US military has enlisted a new germ-killing weapon in the fight against Ebola—a four-wheeled robot that can disinfect a room in minutes with pulses of ultraviolet light.

New bird flu case in Germany

10 hours ago

A worrying new strain of bird flu has been observed for the first time in a wild bird in northern Germany, the agriculture ministry said Saturday.

Mali announces new Ebola case

Nov 22, 2014

Mali announced Saturday a new case of Ebola in a man who is fighting for his life in an intensive care unit in the capital Bamako.

Plague outbreak kills 40 in Madagascar: WHO

Nov 22, 2014

An outbreak of plague has killed 40 people in Madagascar, the World Health Organization said, warning that the disease could spread rapidly in the country's densely populated capital Antananarivo.

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.