Sexually Transmitted Diseases and Urinary Tract Infections May Increase Risk of Birth Defects

Young woman patient with gynecologist in the office

Genitourinary infections (GUIs) include both sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and urinary tract infections (UTIs). These infections are common among sexually active women.

Two studies from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that women who had a GUI before or during early pregnancy were more likely to have a baby with a birth defect compared to women who did not have a GUI. Women who are thinking about having a baby should consider talking to their doctors about how to prevent STDs and UTIs before and during pregnancy.

Read the full scientific articles:

Maternal genitourinary infections and risk of birth defects in theNational Birth Defects Prevention StudyExternal

Risk of gastroschisis with maternal genitourinary infections: the US National birth defects prevention study 1997–2011 Cdc-pdfExternal.

 Main Findings

  • More than 1 in 10 mothers of babies with a birth defect had a GUI before or during the first three months of pregnancy.
  • Among all women in these studies, Chlamydia was the most commonly reported STD in the month before becoming pregnant and during pregnancy.
  • Having a GUI before or during early pregnancy may increase a woman’s chance of having a baby with a birth defect.
  • Women who reported a GUI three months before becoming pregnant had an increased chance of having a baby with gastroschisis compared to women who reported a GUI during the first three months of pregnancy. Therefore, healthcare providers may want to consider testing women for a GUI before they try to get pregnant and again early on in pregnancy.
  • These studies confirmed previous CDC research that found an increased chance of gastroschisis for babies of mothers who had a GUI in early pregnancy compared with mothers who did not have a GUI reported.

 About This Study

  • Researchers used data from the National Birth Defects Prevention Study, which collected information on babies born with birth defects and babies born without birth defects in order to study what might cause or prevent birth defects.
  • Women were considered to have a GUI if they reported either a UTI or STD at any time from three months prior to pregnancy through the end of the first three months of pregnancy. Researchers don’t have enough information to know if these women took any medicine to treat their infections.

About Birth Defects

Birth defects are structural changes present at birth that can affect almost any part(s) of the body such as the heart, brain, or foot. Birth defects are common, costly, and critical conditions that affect 1 in 33 babies born in the United States.

Our Work

CDC’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities (NCBDDD) saves babies by preventing birth defects. NCBDDD identifies causes of birth defects, finds opportunities to prevent them, and improves the health of those living with birth defects. Learn how NCBDDD makes a difference.

 More Information

Key Findings References

Howley MM, Feldkamp ML, Papadopoulos EA, Fisher SC, Arnold KE, & Browne ML. Maternal genitourinary infections and risk of birth defects in the National Birth Defects Prevention Study. Birth Defects Research. 2018; 110(19):1443-54.

Feldkamp ML, Arnold KE, Krikov S, Reefhuis J, Almli LM, Moore CA, & Botto LD. Risk of gastroschisis with maternal genitourinary infections, National Birth Defects Prevention Study 1997-2011. BMJ Open. 2019; 9:e026297.