Gonorrhea is a common sexually transmitted infection that often has no symptoms, can leave a woman unable to have children, and can be passed from the mother to child during childbirth. Having an active gonorrhea infection increases the risk you will get HIV or give it to someone else. HIV is incurable and can be fatal. Gonorrhea can be diagnosed with a test and can usually be cured with antibiotics. However, there is currently a worrisome increase in strains of gonorrhea that are resistant to antibiotics.
You can have gonorrhea without knowing it. If you think you may have been exposed to or infected with any sexually transmitted infection, see a doctor and get tested whether or not you have any symptoms. All pregnant women should be checked for syphilis, HIV, and other sexually transmitted infections.
Gonorrhea is transmitted by vaginal, oral or anal sexual contact. Gonorrhea can also be transmitted from mother to child during delivery.
Signs and Symptoms of Gonorrhea
Most women with gonorrhea, and some men, will have no symptoms.
When a woman has symptoms of a gonorrhea infection in her vagina or urinary tract, they are often mild, may "be mistaken for a bladder or vaginal infection," and may include:
• "painful or burning sensation when urinating"
• "increased vaginal discharge"
• "vaginal bleeding between periods"
When a man has a gonorrhea infection in his penis or urinary tract, he may have symptoms that begin from one to fourteen days after infection including:
• "burning sensation when urinating"
• "a white, yellow, or green discharge from the penis"
• "painful or swollen testicles"
"Symptoms of rectal [gonorrhea] infection in both men and women may include:"
• "anal itching"
• "painful bowel movements"
Gonorrhea "infections in the throat may cause a sore throat, but usually" cause no symptoms.
Effects of Untreated Gonorrhea in Women
When not treated, gonorrhea can cause a woman to develop pelvic inflammatory disease, which in turn can cause:
• abdominal pain
• "chronic pelvic pain"
• infertility (inability to have a baby)
• ectopic pregnancy (pregnancy outside the uterus, which can be fatal)
Gonorrhea in Pregnant Women
If you are a woman who is pregnant or who may become pregnant, it is important that you be tested for sexually transmitted infections. The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that all pregnant women be tested for sexually transmitted infections including HIV, syphilis, chlamydia, and Hepatitis B and that pregnant women who are at risk for gonorrhea or live where it is common be tested for gonorrhea. The World Health Organization recommends that all pregnant women be tested for HIV and syphilis and checked for symptoms of other sexually transmitted infections.
If you are pregnant, have gonorrhea, and don't get treated, your baby may contract gonorrhea and have problems including:
• joint infection
• blood infection, which can be fatal
By getting tested for gonorrhea and treated if you need it, you can protect your own health and your baby's health too. So if you are pregnant, talk to your doctor right away, get tested for sexually transmitted infections, and follow the doctor's instructions.
Gonorrhea is treated with antibiotics. Anytime your doctor gives you antibiotics, it's vital that you take them on schedule until they are gone. If you don't, it increases the risk that you won't be cured and that you will develop an infection that is harder to cure.
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