Syphilis in pregnancy can harm the baby, because when the pregnant woman does not undergo treatment there is a great risk of the baby getting syphilis through the placenta, which can develop serious health problems such as deafness, blindness, neurological and bone problems.
To identify syphilis in pregnancy, it is important that the woman performs the VDRL test at the beginning of pregnancy to verify if she is infected by the bacteria responsible for the disease and, if so, the severity of the disease.
It is important that treatment for syphilis in pregnancy is started as soon as the diagnosis is made, as this is how it is possible to prevent infection in the baby. Treatment should be done under the guidance of the doctor and is usually performed with injections of Penicillin, according to the stage of the disease. It is important that the partner also undergoes the treatment and that the pregnant woman does not have intercourse without a condom until the end of the treatment.
Main risks for the baby
Syphilis in pregnancy is serious especially if the infection is in the early stages, when it is more transmissible, although contamination can happen at any stage of pregnancy. The baby can also be infected during normal delivery if there is any syphilis sore in the vagina area.
If syphilis is passed on to the baby, the main risks are:
Preterm birth, fetal death, low birth weight baby,
Spots on the skin, changes in the bones;
Fissure near the mouth, nephrotic syndrome, edema,
Deformation of the nose, teeth, jaw, roof of the mouth
Deafness and learning difficulties.
Most infected babies do not show any symptoms at birth and therefore all need to have a VDRL test at birth, 3 and 6 months later, starting treatment as soon as the disease is discovered.
How is the treatment done?
Treatment for syphilis in pregnancy must be indicated by the obstetrician and is usually done with Penicillin injections in 1, 2 or 3 doses, depending on the severity and time of contamination:
Primary syphilis in pregnancy: 1 single dose of Penicillin;
Secondary syphilis in pregnancy or recent latent syphilis, with less than one year of evolution: 2 doses of Penicillin, one per week;
Tertiary syphilis in pregnancy, late latent, with more than one year of evolution or unknown time: 3 doses of Penicillin, one per week.
It is very important that the pregnant woman completes the treatment to the end to avoid transmitting syphilis to the baby, that she does not have unprotected intercourse until the end of the treatment and that the partner also undergoes the treatment for syphilis to prevent the progression of the disease and to avoid the recontamination of the woman.
It is also important that, at birth, the baby is evaluated so that, if necessary, he also undergoes treatment with Penicillin, as soon as possible.
Side effects of treatment in pregnant women
With treatment with Penicillin, the pregnant woman may have some side effects such as contractions, fever, headache, muscle or joint pain, chills and diarrhea.
To reduce fever and headaches, the pregnant woman can put a compress with cold water on her forehead. For muscle and joint pain, a good option is to take a hot bath or receive a relaxing massage. Acetaminophen can also help alleviate these side effects, but it should be used with caution.
For diarrhea, a good tip is to increase your intake of yakult, as this yogurt contains live lactobacilli that help regulate the intestines, as well as drinking coconut water to compensate for water losses and hydrate the body.
Allergy to penicillin
Syphilis treatment for pregnant women allergic to penicillin can be done with other antibiotics, such as erythromycin stearate, for 15 days in case of recent syphilis, or 30 days in case of late syphilis.
Signs of improvement and worsening
Signs of improvement in syphilis in pregnancy include a decrease or disappearance of sores in the intimate area, as well as lesions on the skin and mouth, if any, and decrease in swelling and pain of the tongues.
Signs of worsening syphilis in pregnancy include an increase in sores in the intimate area, the appearance or increase of lesions on the skin and in the mouth, swelling of the tongue, fever, muscle stiffness and paralysis of the limbs.
Complications of syphilis in pregnancy
The complications of syphilis in pregnancy can occur in pregnant women who do not perform the treatment correctly. A possible complication is transmitting syphilis to the baby through the placenta or birth canal. In these cases, the baby is said to have congenital syphilis and should also be treated with penicillin because untreated syphilis can affect the baby's development and cause problems such as blindness, deafness or mental retardation.
Another serious complication of syphilis for women is neurosyphilis in which the brain and spinal cord are infected and can cause damage to the nervous system such as paralysis or blindness.