Maternal Syphilis Rates Triple, Putting Newborns at Risk: What You Need to Know

Report Shows Triple Increase in Maternal Syphilis Rates, Putting Thousands of Newborns at Risk for Infection in Recent Years

Syphilis cases in pregnant women skyrocketed threefold, according to data from the CDC.

Syphilis Rates Among Pregnant Women Have Tripled

Did you know that maternal syphilis rates have tripled in recent years? That’s right, and these alarming numbers are putting thousands of newborns at risk for infection. Left untreated, syphilis can cause serious damage to the heart, brain, and can even lead to blindness, deafness, and paralysis. And if transmitted during pregnancy, it can result in miscarriage, lifelong medical issues, and even infant death. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has just released a new report detailing this escalating problem, and we’re here to dive deeper into the issue with you.

The Shocking Numbers

According to the CDC report, more than 10,000 women who gave birth in 2022 had syphilis, compared to about 3,400 cases in 2016. That’s a significant increase in just a few short years! And unfortunately, this spike in maternal syphilis has also been accompanied by a rise in cases of congenital syphilis among newborns. In 2022 alone, nearly 3,800 babies were born with congenital syphilis, marking a 755% increase in cases between 2012 and 2021.

Preventable Tragedies

The surge in congenital syphilis is directly linked to untested and untreated mothers. Dr. Irene Stafford, a maternal-fetal medicine physician with UTHealth Houston, describes syphilis as a particularly pathogenic and infectious disease that is skyrocketing in prevalence. The CDC report highlights that the majority of congenital syphilis cases could have been prevented with better testing and treatment.

Access to Testing and Treatment

One of the key issues that contribute to this problem is the lack of access to testing and treatment. Many pregnant patients today are not getting tested, and even if they are, timely treatment is not guaranteed. Limited clinic hours and the preference for more sophisticated tests, which take longer for results and require follow-up visits, pose significant challenges. This results in missed opportunities for early detection and intervention.

The Disparities

Maternal syphilis rates were found to be highest among mothers under 25, and there were notable racial and ethnic disparities. American Indian women had a rate five times higher than average, while rates among Black and Native Hawaiian women were more than double the national average. The surge in maternal syphilis rates was spread across the country, with 40 states experiencing a more than doubling of rates between 2016 and 2022.

Actions Taken and Concerns

Recognizing the severity of the syphilis crisis, the Biden administration has established a federal task force to address the problem. Importing an alternate medication for syphilis treatment has been allowed temporarily due to ongoing shortages of the front-line treatment. However, experts express concerns about the availability of resources and funding to effectively combat these rising rates.

What Can We Do?

It’s crucial that we improve access to testing and treatment for pregnant women. This may involve expanding clinic hours, promoting rapid tests that provide quick results, and ensuring proper follow-up care. Additionally, raising awareness about the importance of syphilis testing during pregnancy and working towards eliminating disparities in healthcare are essential steps in preventing more cases of congenital syphilis.

Q&A: Your Burning Questions Answered

Q: What are the symptoms of syphilis in pregnant women?
A: Syphilis can have various symptoms, including genital sores, rash, fever, and body aches. However, it’s worth noting that some infected individuals may not experience any symptoms at all.

Q: Can syphilis be successfully treated during pregnancy?
A: Yes, syphilis can be effectively treated with antibiotics, even during pregnancy. Early diagnosis and treatment are crucial to prevent complications for both the mother and the baby.

Q: How can I protect myself from syphilis?
A: The best way to protect yourself from syphilis is to practice safe sex by using condoms and getting tested regularly if you are sexually active. It’s also important to be aware of your partner’s sexual history and consider getting tested together.

Q: Are there any long-term effects for babies born with congenital syphilis?
A: Yes, congenital syphilis can have severe and lasting effects on babies, such as developmental delays, intellectual disabilities, neurological problems, bone deformities, and even death if left untreated.

Q: What resources are available for pregnant women who suspect they may have syphilis?
A: If you suspect you may have syphilis or have concerns about your sexual health during pregnancy, it’s essential to reach out to your healthcare provider. They can provide testing, diagnosis, and appropriate treatment options.

References

  1. Syphilis Rates Among Pregnant Women Have Tripled
  2. Heart Health: 5 Medical Advances That Change Heart Monitoring
  3. Age-Related Macular Degeneration on the Rise: What You Need to Know
  4. Xanax and Valium During Pregnancy May Raise Miscarriage Risk
  5. New Syndrome Affecting Babies Exposed to Fentanyl
  6. Maternal Opioid Use During Pregnancy Raises Child’s Asthma and Eczema Risk
  7. Trends and Characteristics in Maternal Syphilis Rates During Pregnancy: United States, 2016-2022
  8. CNN

Don’t forget to share this article on social media to help raise awareness about the concerning rise in maternal syphilis rates and its impact on newborns. Together, we can work towards preventing this entirely preventable disease and ensuring better outcomes for birthing parents and their precious bundles of joy.