OBJECTIVE--To determine the seroprevalence of syphilis in pregnant women attending antenatal care clinics in a rural hospital in Ethiopia and describe their characteristics so that timely and effective care can be offered. SUBJECTS--Pregnant women attending antenatal care clinics at a rural hospital. METHODS--A cross sectional study was conducted at a rural hospital in north west Ethiopia in September 1994. Data were collected on socio demographic characteristics and past history of sexually transmitted diseases of antenatal care attenders from the records of the hospital. Sera from these pregnant women were examined for syphilis using the VDRL test. VDRL positivity was cross tabulated with socio demographic variables and past history of sexually transmitted diseases. RESULTS--Two hundred and seventy pregnant women were included in the study. Median age of the respondents was 25.2 years. A substantial majority were orthodox Christians (97.4%) and married (92.6%). Town dwellers constituted 58.2% of the antenatal care attenders. Only 4.7% of the women started attending antenatal care clinics during the first trimester. Thirty seven women (13.7%) were found to be VDRL positive. Past history of sexually transmitted diseases was significantly associated with VDRL positivity (p < 0.05). CONCLUSIONS--High VDRL positivity rate is observed in this study. Certain risk factors may be responsible for current and past episodes of sexually transmitted diseases. There is a need for improvement of antenatal care activities at different levels of health care. Appropriate strategies should be devised for prevention and control of sexually transmitted diseases in women of reproductive age groups and the general population.
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