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 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