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Congenital syphilis, which happens when a pregnant person passes syphilis to their baby, is on the rise in the United States — cases of congenital syphilis have increased tenfold since 2012. Here’s what you need to know.

How do you get congenital syphilis? Congenital syphilis is transmitted during pregnancy.

Syphilis is a sexually transmitted infection. The most common symptom of syphilis is no symptom at all, so getting tested is the only way to know for sure if you have it. And if a pregnant person has syphilis — or becomes infected during pregnancy — they can pass the infection on to their baby.

Congenital syphilis is serious.

Congenital syphilis can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, premature birth, low birth weight, and even the death of your newborn baby. Additionally, a baby born with congenital syphilis may become blind or deaf, have developmental delays, or suffer health problems such as bone deformities, meningitis, and severe anemia.

Congenital syphilis can be cured.

Like syphilis, congenital syphilis can be treated with antibiotics. The key is to start treatment as soon as possible after birth to prevent your baby from developing serious health problems.

You can prevent congenital syphilis.

The best way to prevent congenital syphilis is to practice safer sex: Use condoms if you have vaginal or anal sex, and latex dental dams if you have oral sex. Since syphilis often has no symptoms or very mild symptoms, it’s also important for you and your partner to get tested for STDs regularly.

If you’re pregnant, get tested for syphilis.

If you test positive for syphilis, the sooner you receive treatment, the less chance you and your baby will have of serious health complications related to your infection. So ask your doctor or nurse about syphilis testing during your first appointment. 

Have more questions about congenital syphilis? The doctors and nurses at your nearest Planned Parenthood health center can help.

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