Pregnant Women Inadequately Treated For Sexually Transmitted Infections [Study]

A recent Michigan State University study alleges many pregnant women who visit an emergency room (ER) are often left untreated for sexually transmitted infections and diseases. The lack of treatment is commonly excused as test results for conditions like chlamydia and gonorrhea take up to 48 hours to verify.

After patients leave the hospital, they can be difficult to contact. Roman Krivochenitser, an MSU medical student who conducted the analysis, explained:

“A lot of patients leave false phone numbers, or the number is disconnected, or they don’t pick up.”

Krivochenitser probed anonymous medical records from 2008 through 2010 of 735 women who visited three area emergency rooms: Spectrum Health, Saint Mary’s Health Care, and Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Of the records, 179 subjects were pregnant. Of the pregnant patients, only 20 percent were treated on-site in the ER for chlamydia or gonorrhea.

A minority of Michigan hospitals reviewed did manage to provide adequate care and medications for the aforementioned infections. According to Krivochenitser’s study, only patients who presented with observed evidence of infections were immediately treated.

Krivochenitser voiced a concern over his findings as many pregnant women don’t have family physicians or another opportunity other than in the ER visit to receive treatment. Infections can pose a threat to unborn babies.

Women who come into the ER with symptoms indicative of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), pelvic or abdominal pain, are automatically screened before antibiotics are prescribed. However, patients are not given medication until the diagnosis is confirmed with test results.

A verified diagnosis is important as abdominal discomfort can be a symptom of a myriad of conditions, and overmedicating, especially for pregnant patients, can cause additional health complications. Also a needless overuse of antibiotics can establish a dangerous resistance.

Krivochenitser says failure to treat an STI can create short and long-term medical problems for pregnant women. Alongside potential infertility, “You have risks of pre-term labor, of intrauterine growth restrictions, and you can even pass the STI to the infant.”

For additional information regarding pregnancy and the effect of sexually transmitted diseases and infections, please visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

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