Gonorrhea

Gonorrhea is a sexually transmitted disease (also called STD). An STD is a disease you can get from having sex with someone who has the disease. You can get an STD from vaginal, anal or oral sex.

About 700,000 people get gonorrhea each year in the United States.

Can gonorrhea cause complications during pregnancy and for your baby?

Yes. Gonorrhea can lead to:

  • Pelvic inflammatory disease (also called PID). PID is an infection of the uterus, fallopian tubes and other reproductive organs. It can cause stomach pain and fever. PID also can damage your fallopian tubes, lead to ectopic pregnancy and cause fertility problems.
  • Miscarriage, the death of a baby in the womb before 20 weeks of pregnancy 
  • Premature rupture of membranes (also called PROM). This is when the amniotic sac breaks early. The amniotic sac is the bag inside the uterus that holds a growing baby. It is filled with amniotic fluid.
  • Premature birth, birth before 37 completed weeks of pregnancy
  • Infection in the uterus after birth

If it’s not treated, you can pass gonorrhea to your baby during labor and birth. Babies with gonorrhea can develop eye and joint infections and even life-threatening blood infections.

How do you know if you have gonorrhea?

You may have gonorrhea if you have:

  • Vaginal discharge
  • Burning when you go to the bathroom
  • Pain in the lower belly

If you think you have gonorrhea, tell your health care provider.

If you’re pregnant, your provider checks you for gonorrhea at an early prenatal checkup. Your provider uses a urine sample or vaginal fluid taken with a swab to test for gonorrhea. The sample or swab is sent to a lab for testing.

Gonorrhea is treated with antibiotics. Antibiotics are medicines that kill infections caused by bacteria. This treatment can prevent problems for you and your baby.

How can you help protect yourself from gonorrhea?

Here’s how to protect yourself from gonorrhea:

  • Get tested and treated. If you find out you have gonorrhea, get treatment right away. If you or your partner has untreated gonorrhea, you can pass it back and forth to each other during sex. You and your partner also need testing for chlamydia. Gonorrhea often happens together with chlamydia.
  • Don’t have sex. This is the best way to prevent yourself from getting an STD, including gonorrhea.
  • If you have sex, have sex with only one person who doesn’t have other sex partners. Use a condom if you’re not sure if your partner has an STD. Ask your partner to get tested and treated for STDs.

Last reviewed May 2013


Most common questions

What is mononucleosis?

Mononucleosis (also called mono) is an infection usually caused by the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV). It’s sometimes caused by another virus called cytomegalovirus (CMV). EBV and CMV are part of the herpes virus family. Mono is most common in teenagers and young adults, but anyone can get it. Mono is called the “kissing disease” because it’s usually passed from one person to another through saliva. In addition to kissing, it can also be passed through sneezing, coughing or sharing pillows, drinks, straws, and toothbrushes.

You can have mono without having any symptoms. But even if you don’t get sick, you can still pass it to others. Symptoms can include:

  • Achy muscles
  • Belly pain
  • Fatigue (feeling tired all the time)
  • Fever
  • Sore throat
  • Swollen glands in your neck

If your symptoms don’t go away or get worse, tell your health care provider. He’ll most likely do a physical exam and test your blood to find out for sure if you have mono.

There’s no vaccine to prevent mono. There’s also no specific treatment. The best care is to take it easy and get as much rest as you can. It may take a few weeks before you fully recover.

Can Rh factor affect my baby?

The Rh factor may be a problem if mom is Rh-negative but dad is Rh-positive. If dad is Rh-negative, there is no risk.

If your baby gets her Rh-positive factor from dad, your body may believe that your baby's red blood cells are foreign elements attacking you. Your body may make antibodies to fight them. This is called sensitization.

If you're Rh-negative, you can get shots of Rh immune globulin (RhIg) to stop your body from attacking your baby. It's best to get these shots at 28 weeks of pregnancy and again within 72 hours of giving birth if a blood test shows that your baby is Rh-positive. You won't need anymore shots after giving birth if your baby is Rh-negative. You should also get a shot after certain pregnancy exams like an amniocentesis, a chorionic villus sampling or an external cephalic version (when your provider tries to turn a breech-position baby head down before labor). You'll also want to get the shot if you have a miscarriage, an ectopic pregnancy or suffer abdominal trauma.

I had a miscarriage. How long should I wait to try again?

Before getting pregnant again, it's important that you are ready both physically and emotionally. If you don't need tests or treatments to discover the cause of the miscarriage, it's usually OK for you to become pregnant after one normal menstrual cycle. However, it may take longer for you to feel emotionally ready to be pregnant again. Everyone responds differently to a miscarriage. Only you will know when you are ready to try to get pregnant again.

Are gallstones common during pregnancy?

Not common, but they do happen. Elevated hormones during pregnancy can cause the gallbladder to function more slowly, less efficiently. The gallbladder stores and releases bile, a substance produced in the liver. Bile helps digest fat. When bile sits in the gallbladder for too long, hard, solid nuggets called gallstones can form. The stones can block the flow of bile, causing indigestion and sometimes serious pain. Staying at a healthy weight during pregnancy can help lower your risk of gallstones. Exercise and eating foods that are low in fat and high in fiber, like veggies, fruits and whole grains, can help, too. Symptoms of gallstones include nausea, vomiting and intense, continuous abdominal pain. Treatment during pregnancy may include surgery to remove the gallbladder. Gallstones in the third trimester can be managed with a strict meal plan and pain medication, followed by surgery several weeks after delivery.

©2013 March of Dimes Foundation. The March of Dimes is a non-profit organization recognized as tax-exempt under Internal Revenue Code section 501(c)(3).