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Providers Take 5 Actions to Protect Pregnant Patients and Babies

1. Test Pregnant Women for Syphilis

  • Screen all pregnant women for syphilis at their first prenatal visit. Some women may be in the asymptomatic stage of syphilis. Women who are asymptomatic can still spread the infection to their unborn babies.
  • Women at high risk should be re-screened early in their third trimester and again at delivery. This includes women with a history of syphilis infection, incarceration, drug use, multiple or concurrent partners, and those who live in areas with high rates of syphilis.
  • The same principles of sexually transmitted disease prevention apply to pregnant women as well. Note sexual history throughout patients prenatal visit and talk with her about the prevention methods.

2. Treat Women with Diagnosed Syphilis Immediately

  • If your patient is diagnosed with syphilis, take immediate action. Pregnant women diagnosed with syphilis should be treated with penicillin immoderately. Treatment at least 30 days prior to delivery is needed to prevent congenital syphilis. Also, all cases of syphilis and congenital syphilis are required to be reported to your state or local health departments immediately. CDC recommends reporting within 24 hours.

3. Confirm syphilis testing at delivery

  • Before discharging any newborn infant from the hospital, make sure that the mother has been tested for syphilis at least once during her pregnancy or at delivery. If the test is positive, ensure that the mother and baby are evaluated appropriately before discharge, and if necessary, treated. Also, if a women delivers a still born infant, she should be tested for syphilis.

4. Know whether syphilis is prevalent in your community

  • In 2016, there were 1,018 primary and secondary syphilis cases and 61 among women in the Atlanta Metropolitan Statistical Area (Atlanta – Sandy Springs – Roswell, GA)

5. Report all cases of syphilis by stage and congenital syphilis to the local or state health department within 24 hours

  • Partner with health departments, prenatal care providers, and other local organizations to address barriers to obtaining early and adequate prenatal care for the most vulnerable pregnant women in your community. Women who are uninsured or underinsured, and women with substance use issues, have been found to be at increased risk of receiving inadequate or no prenatal care, placing their unborn  babies at risk for congenital syphilis.


Content provided by Medscape and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.