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Link Between STI Symptoms and Stillbirth in Sub-Saharan Africa

Published on Wed Aug 23 2023Gambia | Sheena on Flickr Gambia | Sheena on Flickr

A new study has found a significant association between self-reported sexually transmitted infection (STI) symptoms and stillbirth in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). The study, which analyzed nationally representative survey data from 19 countries in SSA, revealed that women who reported STI symptoms in the past year had a 30% higher risk of experiencing a stillbirth in the prior five years compared to women who did not report any symptoms.

This finding is particularly important given that SSA has a disproportionately high burden of both stillbirths and STIs. The region has a stillbirth rate of 29 per 1,000 births, compared to just 3 per 1,000 births in high-income countries globally. Additionally, 40% of all newly diagnosed STIs worldwide are identified in SSA. These infections can have serious consequences for pregnant women, including stillbirth, spontaneous abortion, prematurity, and low birth weight.

The study highlights the need for increased screening and treatment of STIs among pregnant women in SSA. Currently, screening recommendations for pregnant women in the region focus primarily on HIV, syphilis, and hepatitis B, but do not include other common STIs such as gonorrhea and chlamydia. However, the high burden of STIs in this region suggests that screening for all STIs, even if asymptomatic, could have a significant impact on maternal and child health.

The findings of this study are based on nationally representative survey data, which allows for greater generalizability and informs broader populations than previous studies conducted on an individual country basis. The study also identified other factors associated with stillbirth, including maternal age and healthcare utilization. Women aged 35-49 years had an increased risk of stillbirth compared to younger women, and women who reported utilizing healthcare services were more likely to experience a stillbirth.

In conclusion, this study provides valuable insights into the relationship between STI symptoms and stillbirth in SSA. The findings highlight the importance of addressing the burden of STIs in this region, as well as the need for increased screening and treatment during pregnancy. By targeting interventions based on these findings, public health professionals can work towards reducing the percentage of stillbirths in sub-Saharan Africa and improving overall maternal health.


Written by Pulver, S., Pinto, C. N., Ba, D. M., Risher, K. A.
Tags: Medicine | Medicine:Reproductive

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