Untreated syphilis results in a high-risk pregnancy. There are an estimated 8,000 pregnant women with syphilis in the United States. Untreated early syphilis results in death of the unborn baby in up to 40 percent of cases. Studies show that if a woman contracts syphilis during the 4 years before her pregnancy, untreated early syphilis may lead to infection of her unborn baby in more than 70 percent of cases. Therefore, if you are pregnant, you should be tested for syphilis.
Syphilis can cause miscarriages, premature births, stillbirths, or death of newborn babies. Some infants with congenital syphilis have symptoms at birth, but most develop symptoms later.
Untreated babies with congenital syphilis can have deformities, delays in development, or seizures along with many other problems such as rash, fever, swollen liver and spleen, anemia, and jaundice. Sores on infected babies are infectious. Rarely, the symptoms of syphilis go unseen in infants so that they later develop the symptoms of late-stage syphilis, including damage to their bones, teeth, eyes, ears, and brains.
There is an estimated two- to five-fold increased risk of getting infected with HIV when syphilis is present. Substantial biological evidence shows the increased likelihood that getting and transmitting HIV is linked to the presence of sexually transmitted infections (STIs). You should discuss this and other STIs with your health care provider.