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STD increases in Montana pose threat to newborn babies

Posted at 7:24 AM, Oct 30, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-30 16:21:00-04

MISSOULA — The number of cases of syphilis and gonorrhea in Montana have increased by 27% this year alone.

The jump is in line with national trends as sexually transmitted infections sweep across the U.S. at an alarming rate.

OB/GYN Tondy Baumgartner says she can’t pinpoint the exact cause of this increase, but a few factors have come to her attention.

She places some of the blame on decreased funding at low income clinics known for giving free STD screenings.

"I think that education on STD prevention has decreased in some of the schools, and then I also think some people are just practicing unsafe habits.”

But those who are sexually active aren’t the only ones at risk.

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cases of congenital syphilis in the U.S. increased by 40% between 2017 and 2018.

Congenital syphilis refers to the disease when it is passed from a mother to her baby during pregnancy.

Dr. Baumgartner explained that pregnant women with an undiagnosed case of syphilis or gonorrhea can face serious health complications such as a miscarriage, stillbirth, preterm delivery, or fetal death.

"It’s really important that women in pregnancy get tested,” said Baumgartner, “One of the important things to remember is that syphilis and gonorrhea are very easily treated with an antibiotic."

Dr. Baumgartner emphasized that when it comes to STDs, it’s much easier to treat early on than down the road.

Community Medical Center in Missoula recommends the following people be tested for STDs:

  • All pregnant women
  • People who are sexually active with new or multiple partners
  • A sex partner who has a sexually transmitted infection
  • People who are symptomatic

Click here for more information from the CDC on sexually transmitted diseases.