MamaBaby is very happy to have begun testing its pregnant patients for sexually transmitted infections, which are very prevalent in the population we serve. Because infections such as chlamydia and gonorrhea are generally asymptomatic, the only way to detect the majority of cases is through screening. On Thursdays mornings, our nurse Miss Nadege Pierre gives our pregnant moms a comprehensive STI lesson along with the ever popular condom demonstration and a demonstration of the speculum exam. For most women, this will be their first speculum exam. We believe that it is very important for the women to understand what the exam will entail so that they are as comfortable as possible with the not-so-comfortable speculum exam. The last thing we want is for women to be scarred by the experience and to avoid STI testing in the future! So far, we have tested women at an average gestation of 33 weeks of pregnancy and average age of 27. The rates of infection have shocked us, and motivate us to test as many women as possible. Here are the prevalence rates we have found so far:
No recent HIV +
These numbers are frightening for any population, but they have much worse implications in pregnant women. Chlamydia and gonorrhea can cause eye infection and pneumonia in the neonate and if the infections progress in women, they can affect the entire reproductive tract, leaving a women infertile and in excruciating pain. We are happy to prevent this progression and protect their babies from terrible infections. BV and Trichomonas can cause preterm labor and prematurity. We hope to avoid this complication and give these infants a fighting chance in a country that has the highest infant mortality rate in the Western Hemisphere.
All patients with a sexually transmitted infection receive treatment for themselves and their partners and are given condoms. Many women are in the unfortunate circumstance of being with a man who has several partners. In a relationship such as this, the women are aware that they are one of many partners that their husband has. In this situation, treating our patient and even their partner will likely not be enough, as the man will simply get reinfected and infect our pregnant mom again. We do extensive education with not only these women, but all moms who are positive for an STI about the importance of protecting herself and her baby through condom use or abstinence until the baby is born, at the very least.
Miss Nadge Pierre is testing our patients in one of the rooms in the birth center. We also have lovely nursing student volunteers helping us with the chlamydia and gonorrhea rapid tests.
This is our lab station where our volunteer is performing the rapid tests from cervical swabs. This is also where we distribute medication and give patient education.
Sharareh (Sherry) Firouzbakht
UC Irvine School of Medicine - MS 4