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Syphilis is a sexually transmitted infection that can pass through the placenta to your baby. The infection increases the risk of miscarriage, stillbirth, and preterm birth. Babies born with syphilis can suffer serious health problems such as deformities, vision and hearing loss, and neurological damage. A mother with untreated syphilis has up to an 80 percent chance of passing the infection to her unborn baby.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the number of babies born with syphilis is at a 20-year high, and has doubled over the past four years. In 2013, there were 362 cases of babies born with syphilis. That jumped to 918 in 2017, or 23 out of every 100,000 babies born that year.
Syphilis is easy to treat with antibiotics when caught in time. That's why it's essential to get early and regular prenatal care. Many people don't realize they have syphilis until they get tested for it because it's common to have no noticeable symptoms.
Your healthcare provider should screen you for syphilis during your first prenatal visit. You may also get screened later in your pregnancy, depending on your risk for syphilis (such as if your partner has syphilis) and where you live.
Certain states have especially high rates of congenital syphilis. Arizona, California, Florida, Louisiana, and Texas accounted for more than two-thirds of babies born with the infection, the CDC reported.
If you think you may have been exposed to syphilis or any other sexually transmitted infection during pregnancy, tell your health care provider right away so you can be tested and treated if necessary. You can read more about syphilis during pregnancy here.
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