Talking about STIs is still considered taboo and conversations about sexual behavior are often uncomfortable—even in a healthcare setting. Learn ways to communicate without assumptions or judgment.
Rates of Newborn Syphilis 10 Times Higher Than a Decade Ago
Syphilis during pregnancy is a serious issue. It can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, and infant death. Babies born with syphilis can face lifelong medical issues. This is why screening for syphilis is recommended for all pregnant patients, so infections can be found and treated.
As CDC notes, there were many missed opportunities to prevent newborn syphilis. For example, 2 in 5 (40%) people who had a baby with syphilis did not get prenatal care. Some pregnant patients were not screened for syphilis or were not treated after testing positive. Overall, 9 in 10 cases of newborn syphilis in 2022 might have been prevented with timely testing and treatment.
There are also clear disparities in newborn syphilis cases. In 2021, babies born to Black, Hispanic, or American Indian/Alaska Native mothers were up to 8 times more likely to have newborn syphilis than babies born to white mothers. These disparities stem from unfair and unjust systems, policies, and practices.
Preventing Newborn Syphilis
Newborn syphilis is a preventable problem. As the CDC states in its report, “Increasing rates of syphilis among babies reflect a failure of the U.S. health system.”
While there are large, systemic problems that play a role, like institutional racism and lack of access of care, there are clear steps that can be taken. CDC has offered guidance to health care providers and health departments on timely testing and treatment.
Read more about syphilis prevention, testing, and treatment here.
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