Congenital Syphilis

Recently, there has been a sharp increase in the number of babies born with syphilis in the United States, including in New York. Syphilis can have major health impacts on your baby. Protect your baby from being born with syphilis (congenital syphilis) by getting tested for syphilis during your pregnancy.

What is syphilis?

Syphilis is a sexually transmitted infection or STI caused by bacteria. It spread through skin-to-skin contact with a syphilis sore, typically during sex.

Pregnant persons can also pass syphilis to their baby during pregnancy or childbirth.

What if I am pregnant?

Syphilis can be transmitted from a pregnant person to their baby during pregnancy or at birth. This is called congenital syphilis. If you test positive for syphilis during pregnancy, be sure to get treatment right away.

Preventing syphilis in yourself and your sex partner(s) is the best way to prevent your baby from getting syphilis.

Prevent syphilis during pregnancy.

Make sure your partner(s) are tested for syphilis and receive treatment before you have sex with them.

Use latex condoms every time you have oral, anal, and/or vaginal sex.

However, you should know that sometimes syphilis sores occur in areas not covered by a condom, and you can still get syphilis through close contact with these sores.

Signs and symptoms of syphilis.

The disease starts as a sore that's often painless and typically appears on the genitals, rectum, or mouth.

Syphilis develops in stages. The symptoms vary with each stage. But the stages may overlap. And the symptoms don't always happen in the same order. You may be infected with syphilis and not notice it. Without treatment, the infection stays in the body and can be harmful.

Testing for syphilis.

Ask your prenatal care provider for testing for syphilis 3 times during pregnancy:

  • At first prenatal visit
  • In 3rd trimester (at 28 weeks, and no later than 32 weeks)
  • At delivery

To locate testing for syphilis and other sexually transmitted infections visit:

Treatment of syphilis.

Syphilis can be treated and cured with antibiotics. If you are diagnosed with and treated for syphilis, your doctor should do follow-up testing for at least one year to make sure that your treatment is working.

Syphilis has been called "the great imitator" because its symptoms are like other infections and diseases. Additionally, symptoms can be so mild that you may not notice have them.

If left untreated… Syphilis during pregnancy can cause:

  • Miscarriage (losing the baby during pregnancy) |
  • Stillbirth (a baby born dead) |
  • Prematurity (a baby born early) |
  • Low birth weight and other birth defects | or
  • Death of the baby shortly after birth

If you are pregnant, early detection and treatment can help protect you and your baby's health.

Pregnancy Resources

  • Growing Up Healthy Hotline - The Growing Up Healthy Hotline (1-800-522-5006) provides information about health care, nutrition and other health and human services. The hotline provides information and referral 24 hours a day, seven days a week in English, Spanish and other languages. All calls are confidential.
  • NYS Parenting Portal - Find caregiving tips and resources to enhance your role as a parent.
  • Prenatal Care in New York State - Programs statewide to help before, during and after pregnancy.
  • Text 4 Baby - Sign up for free text messages to keep you and your baby healthy. Join the hundreds of thousands of moms who receive free text messages throughout their pregnancy and their baby's first year.
  • Comprehensive Family Planning and Reproductive Health Care Services Program ( – Family Planning programs that seek to support people and educate them in choosing the timing and spacing of their pregnancies. Services include birth control, emergency contraception, free condoms, sexually transmitted infection screening and treatment, and basic infertility services.