What is Congenital Syphilis?

Women diagnosed with syphilis can acquire congenital syphilis.  Congenital syphilis is syphilis present in the mother’s uterus and occurs when a child is born to a mother with syphilis. Women with untreated or inadequately treated latent syphilis still have a 23 percent chance of an adverse pregnancy outcome. If left untreated, congenital syphilis can cause poor pregnancy outcomes, including lower extremity abnormalities, miscarriages, premature births, stillbirths or death in newborns. Some infants with congenital syphilis have symptoms at birth, but many develop symptoms later.

Women diagnosed with syphilis should seek treatment as early as possible to prevent serious health problems for themselves and or their children.

Women should consult their primary physician and/or health care provider for treatment. Also, the Houston Health Department or one’s local health department can also answers questions about treatment.

Women diagnosed with syphilis can transmit congenital syphilis to the unborn baby if left untreated.

Get Tested. Get Tested.


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Congenital Syphilis Trends
on the Rise in Houston and Harris County


According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the number of female syphilis cases rose by 32 percent between 2017 and 2018. Consequently, the number of congenital syphilis cases among pregnant mothers in Houston/Harris County more than doubled from 2017 (47 cases)  to 2018 (104 cases) — a 121 percent increase. In Harris County, women ages 18-34 accounted for 92 percent of all syphilis cases from 2017 to 2018. Also:

  • During the same time period, the number of women ages 35-44 who delivered an infant with congenital syphilis increased 5 percent from 6 percent to 11 percent.
  • African American mothers have accounted for 58 percent and 66 percent of infants born with congenital syphilis in Harris County from 2017 to 2018, respectively.
  • Hispanic mothers have accounted for 38 percent and 20 percent of infants born with congenital syphilis in Harris County from 2017 to 2018, respectively.

Meanwhile, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services, Texas reported 421 primary and secondary syphilis cases among women in 2018, a 38 percent increase from 2017. Increased rates of syphilis in women have been associated with increased rates of congenital syphilis regardless of pregnancy status.

My Prenatal Promise “Baby Shower” PSA

Facts about STIs

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are spread through sexual contact — specifically through vaginal, anal or oral sex.  Many STIs have no obvious symptoms.  A person with an STI may seem healthy — and still transmit the illness to a sexual partner.

Some STIs can also be transmitted:

  • By skin-to-skin contact with infected sores
  • Through contact with blood or other bodily fluids
  • By sharing needles or syringes

Prevention of STIs

Avoiding sex is the only sure way to prevent contracting an STI through sex. Another option is to use a male or female latex or polyurethane condoms to help protect against HIV and other STIs. If you are sexually active, reduce your risks by knowing if your partner is practicing safe sex and make sure she or he is:

  • Not infected
  • Has no other sex partners
  • Does not inject drugs

It is highly recommended that sexually active people get tested for STIs before having sex.  If you are unable to use a male latex condom, inquire about polyurethane or synthetic latex male or female condoms.

Ask your physician, health care provider or the Houston Health Department about testing for syphilis, HIV and other STIs.

My Prenatal Pledge

"I pledge to be the best mother I can be for the most optimal health of my unborn baby!!!"

C. Parham, An Expectant Mother, 35-44, Houston

My Prenatal Pledge

"I already got my first trimester testing for STIs, and I am grateful to be healthy. I take my health + my growing baby's health very seriously."

L Leonhardt, An Expectant Mother, 25-34, Harris County

My Prenatal Pledge

"To get tested and to stay clean."

N. Crawford, An Expectant Mother, 35-44, Houston

My Prenatal Pledge

"I PLEDGE To: Get tested three times for syphilis, HIV and other STIs, and to also share My Prenatal Pledge with my family, friends and on social media with other expectant mothers and all Houstonians."

Danielle Jackson, An Expectant Mother, 25-34, Harris County

My Prenatal Pledge

"To stay healthy and sti free during my pregnancy."

T Wright, An Expectant Mother, 25-34, Harris County