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Elizabeth Boskey, Ph.D.

Pregnant Pause

By February 22, 2013

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A recent study out of Michigan State University has shown that Emergency Departments (ED) may be missing opportunities to treat gonorrhea and chlamydia in pregnant women. The research, which looked at three local EDs, found that 80 percent of the pregnant women who came into the ED infected with a bacterial STD were not treated for it there, because it took too long for their test results to come back. Although a good proportion of the women were later contacted and told to seek treatment elsewhere, 20 percent of the infected women were unreachable after they left the ED. Furthermore, there was no way to tell how many of them actually got the recommended treatment.

Unfortunately, when a woman has an STD during pregnancy it can potentially have serious negative repercussions for her fetus. That's why the missed opportunities for treatment are such a shame. However, there is no obvious solution. Until hospitals reliably have the facilities to do faster testing, there's no good way to determine which women are infected with which STDs quickly enough to implement treatment in the ED setting. That leaves doctors with the choice of either presumptively prescribing antibiotics, which has serious problems of its own, or hoping that they can get women into treatment once they've left the ED. Neither option is a particularly good one.

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