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Maternal pregnancy complications


Syphilis is a sexually transmitted infection (STI). Blood screening for this bacterial infection is done during the first pregnancy visit as part of the general assessment.

Untreated syphilis

If left untreated, syphilis has serious long-term consequences. Going through several stages, it evolves over the course of many years in an infected individual.

Untreated, the onset of late-stage syphilis can occur 10 to 30 years after initial infection, by which time it can be attacking the bones, tissues, and even the cardiovascular and neurological systems.

Consequences at birth

If the mother is not treated, the risk of infecting the unborn child is about 80%.

Consequences range from spontaneous abortion (miscarriage) to birth defects, which can be discovered after birth and include damage to the eyes, bones, teeth, liver and skin.

If syphilis is treated before 20 weeks of pregnancy, the risk of fetal disease is practically nil.

Management during pregnancy

  • An appointment with a gynecologist-obstetrician specialized in infectious diseases is necessary.  
  • Screening of any sexual partners is recommended.
  • The doctor will follow up with a series of ultrasounds to detect any malformations in the fetus.
  • The mother will be treated with specific antibiotics by injection (one dose or up to three doses a week apart).

Treatment and follow-up care

A follow-up appointment with the child and tests of the placenta will be conducted to ensure the absence of syphilis at birth.

Page by

Joanne Moreau, inf. clinicienne et Dre Isabelle Boucoiran

About this page
Updated on 1/25/2021
Created on 12/19/2017
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