What is it?
Syphilis is an STD that can cause long-term complications if not treated correctly. Symptoms in adults are divided into stages. These stages are primary, secondary, latent, and late syphilis. Congenital syphilis (CS) is a disease that occurs when a birthing parent with syphilis passes the infection on to her baby during pregnancy.
What to watch for:
- Symptoms show up after 1-12 weeks after infection.
- A painless sore or sores on the mouth or genitals.
- Sore lasts 2-6 weeks.
- Sore goes away but you still have syphilis.
- Symptoms show as sore heals or after.
- A rash anywhere on the body.
- Flu-like feelings.
- Rash and flu-like feelings go away, but you still have syphilis.
Congenital Syphilis can cause:
- Stillbirth (a baby born dead)
- Prematurity (a baby born early)
- Low birth weight
- Death shortly after birth
For babies born with CS, CS can cause:
- Deformed bones
- Severe anemia (low blood count)
- Enlarged liver and spleen
- Jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes)
- Brain and nerve problems, like blindness or deafness
- Skin rashes
How do you get it?
Syphilis is spread during vaginal, anal, or oral sex, and sometimes by genital touching, with someone who has syphilis. Congenital syphilis occurs when a birthing parent with syphilis passes the infection to baby during pregnancy.
What happens if you don’t get treated?
- You can give syphilis to your sex partner(s).
- A birthing parent with syphilis can give it to baby during childbirth.
- Can cause heart disease, brain damage, blindness and death.
Get a syphilis test at your first prenatal visit.
If you are pregnant and have syphilis, you can still reduce the risk of CS for your baby. Getting tested and treated for syphilis can prevent serious health complications for both you and your baby.
Do all babies with CS have signs or symptoms?
No. It is possible that a baby with CS won’t have any symptoms at birth. But without treatment, the baby may develop serious problems. Usually, these health problems develop in the first few weeks after birth, but they can also happen years later. Babies who do not get treatment for CS and develop symptoms later on can die from the infection. They may also be developmentally delayed or have seizures.
I’m pregnant. Do I need to get tested for syphilis?
Yes. All pregnant people should be tested for syphilis at the first prenatal visit (the first time you see your doctor for health care during pregnancy). If you don’t get tested at your first visit, make sure to ask your doctor about getting tested during a future checkup. Keep in mind that you can have syphilis and not know it. Many people with syphilis do not have any symptoms. Syphilis symptoms may be very mild, or be similar to signs of other health problems. The only way to know for sure if you have syphilis is to get tested.
My baby was born with CS. Is there a way to treat the infection?
Yes. There is treatment for CS. Babies who have CS need to be treated right away — or they can develop serious health problems. Depending on the results of your baby’s medical evaluation, he/she may need antibiotics in a hospital for 10 days. In some cases, only one injection of antibiotic is needed. It’s also important that babies treated for CS get follow-up care to make sure that the treatment worked..
Can it be cured?
Is there a vaccination?