What to Expect: STD Testing During Pregnancy

Testing for sexually-transmitted diseases (STDs) is a critically important part of prenatal care at OHSU. "HIV and syphilis can pass much more easily from mom to fetus when untreated," says Michele Megregian, C.N.M., M.S.N., a midwife at the Center for Women's Health. "And STDs like gonorrhea and chlamydia can cause blindness and other problems in babies." 

At the OHSU Center for Women's Health, all health care providers conduct a full screening for HIV and other STDs for all pregnant women. "We do the testing along with the blood type test that is essential during pregnancy, so there's no extra needle pricks," says Katie Au, M.D., general obstetrician and gynecologist at the Center. 

Additional STD and HIV testing is based on risk. For example, women who have multiple sexual partners or who use IV drugs may be at increased risk for STDs and will likely benefit from re-testing later in their pregnancies. 

Because of a recent increase in Oregon of cases of congenital syphilis, all pregnant women are tested twice more for the disease –towards the beginning of the third trimester and when they give birth, in addition to the initial screening.  

"Universal testing for syphilis is important in Oregon because the risk-based testing we were conducting wasn't decreasing the number of cases in the state," says Megregian. Oregon is one of the worst ten states in the nation when it comes to cases of congenital syphilis. 

All women, pregnant or not, can be tested for STDs or HIV at any time. If you have concerns or just want peace of mind heading into the new year, talk to your health care provider. The sooner that a sexually transmitted disease is detected and treated, the better. 

If you are interested in becoming pregnant, talk to your provider about testing right away. 

"The Center for Women's Health is available for preconception care and pregnancy planning," says Megregian. "Before conceiving is the best time to detect and treat STDs."