Are You Infected?
You could have an STD and not even know it -- or that it can harm your unborn baby
Stats Over 32,000 Americans get syphilis each year; infection rates are higher in some southern states and in African-Americans.
Symptoms While most pregnant women don't have any symptoms, the primary stage of syphilis is characterized by a small, firm, painless sore (called a chancre) that appears from 10 to 90 days after infection; the sore lasts one to five weeks. This can be followed by a rash and rough, "copper penny" spots on the palms of the hands and the bottoms of the feet.
Testing In many states, a syphilis screen -- a blood test -- is the only routine prenatal STD test.
Risks Untreated, syphilis can attack the internal organs, causing blindness, lack of muscle coordination, and dementia. A pregnant woman with untreated syphilis has a 50 percent chance of miscarriage and a 40 percent chance of delivering a syphilitic baby. Signs of an infant infection (which can appear up to eight weeks after birth) include sores, runny nose, jaundice, a small head, slimy patches in the mouth, anemia, and a swollen liver.