Let’s Talk About Syphilis

At Community Pregnancy Clinics, we do not shy away from difficult conversations. Rather, we seek to make the uncomfortable comfortable and discuss your sexual health with care and honesty. Our free pregnancy clinics provide truthful information regarding relationships, pregnancy, and STIs. One major, potentially life threatening STI out there is congenital syphilis. If you are sexually active, you need to know how contracting this disease can affect your unborn baby.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, 80,000 people, most commonly people in their early 20s, are diagnosed with syphilis every year. Syphilis is highly contagious and can be spread through vaginal, anal, or oral sex. The most reliable form of syphilis prevention is abstaining from sex. If you decide to have sex and your partner has syphilis, you are at risk of being infected. If you are pregnant and contract syphilis, you can pass the STI to your unborn baby. This is known as congenital syphilis. Syphilis can be treated with medication, but when left untreated, it will progress in 4 stages.

Stages of Congenital Syphilis

Primary syphilis: highly contagious

  • Occurs 2-12 weeks after exposure
  • A small and painless chancre (smooth, red sore) develops on the genitals and in the mouth
  • You may not even recognize the chancre

Secondary syphilis: highly contagious

  • A bumpy rash appears on your hands and the bottoms of your feet about 1-6 months after the chancre goes away
  • You may also experience flu-like symptoms
  • Flu symptoms may come and go for months to years

Latent syphilis: less contagious

  • Develops only if the syphilis is not treated in the first two stages
  • Can cause damage to your heart, nerves, bones, and organs
  • Can last several years

Tertiary syphilis: less contagious

  • Many people do not progress to this stage since the infection can cure itself overtime
  • Serious health problems include: brain damage, dementia, mental health disorders, heart disease, muscle problems, nerve damage, seizures, tumors, and blindness
  • Congenital syphilis occurs when an infected woman passes the disease to her unborn baby

Effects of Congenital Syphilis on Your Unborn Baby

Congenital syphilis will impact your baby differently depending on how long you have had the infection and when / if you received treatment. 

Effects on pregnancy:

  • Miscarriage
  • Stillbirth
  • Prematurity
  • Low birth weight
  • Death shortly after birth

If the baby survives birth, he / she may experience:

  • Deformed bones
  • Severe anemia
  • Enlarged liver and spleen
  • Jaundice 
  • Blindness
  • Deafness
  • Meningitis
  • Skin rashes

According to the CDC, congenital syphilis cases have more than tripled in recent years with 40% of infected babies being stillborn or dying soon after birth.

If you are concerned about your sexual health and find yourself searching for “free STD testing near me”, make an appointment at one of our pregnancy resource centers today. We offer free chlamydia and gonorrhea testing and provide referrals for other free STI/STD testing. Visit us in Naples, Fort Myers, Sarasota, or Gainesville, FL.

At Community Pregnancy Clinics, we are here for you! We offer free pregnancy tests, free ultrasounds, free STI Testing, and free support during and after your pregnancy.


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