State laws regarding prenatal syphilis screening in the United States

Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2003 Oct;189(4):1178-83. doi: 10.1067/s0002-9378(03)00547-7.


Objective: The purpose of this study was to assess the frequency and pattern of state laws or regulations regarding prenatal syphilis serologic screening in the United States in 2001.

Study design: We surveyed the United States for existing laws and regulations regarding serologic screening for syphilis during pregnancy. Testing was compared with 2000 state rates of syphilis in women and newborn infants, with states that had syphilis high morbidity areas, and with national 2000 and 2010 objectives for rates of syphilis.

Results: Forty-six of the 50 states (90%) and the District of Columbia have laws regarding antenatal syphilis screening. Thirty-four of the 46 statutes (76%) mandate one prenatal test, usually at the first prenatal visit or early in pregnancy. Twelve laws (26%) include third-trimester testing for all or high-risk women. The presence of high morbidity areas, incidence of early syphilis in women, and rates of congenital syphilis are associated with increasing frequency of legislated antepartum screening.

Conclusion: Only 90% of states have statutes that require antepartum syphilis screening, and there is variation in the content of the statutes about the number and timing of tests. States with a heavy burden of infectious syphilis in women tend to require more prenatal testing.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Legislation as Topic
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Diagnosis*
  • Syphilis / epidemiology
  • Syphilis Serodiagnosis*
  • United States / epidemiology