Treatment of syphilis in pregnancy and prevention of congenital syphilis

Clin Infect Dis. 2002 Oct 15;35(Suppl 2):S200-9. doi: 10.1086/342108.


Studies about the management of syphilis during pregnancy were reviewed. They lacked uniformity in diagnostic criteria and study design. Currently recommended doses of benzathine penicillin G are effective in preventing congenital syphilis in most settings, although studies are needed regarding increased dosing regimens. Azithromycin and ceftriaxone offer potential alternatives for penicillin-allergic women, but insufficient data on efficacy limit their use in pregnancy. Ultrasonography provides a noninvasive means to examine pregnant women for signs of fetal syphilis, and abnormal findings indicate a risk for obstetric complications and fetal treatment failure. Ultrasonography should precede antepartum treatment during the latter half of pregnancy to gauge severity of fetal infection. However, optimal management of the affected fetus has not been established; collaborative management with a specialist is recommended. Antepartum screening remains a critical component of congenital syphilis prevention, even in the era of syphilis elimination.

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Fetal Death / prevention & control
  • Fetal Distress / prevention & control
  • HIV Infections / complications
  • HIV Infections / immunology
  • Humans
  • Obstetric Labor, Premature / prevention & control
  • Penicillin G Benzathine / therapeutic use*
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Pregnancy
  • Serologic Tests
  • Syphilis / complications
  • Syphilis / diagnostic imaging
  • Syphilis / drug therapy*
  • Syphilis / immunology
  • Syphilis, Congenital / immunology
  • Syphilis, Congenital / prevention & control*
  • Ultrasonography


  • Penicillin G Benzathine