The Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) is encouraging expectant mothers to schedule early and regular prenatal care visits to help ensure their children are born healthy and strong. As part of this effort, CDPH launched a new ad campaign promoting the importance of prenatal care to prevent congenital syphilis (CS) in babies, which has been on a steady rise both nationally and locally.


“Congenital syphilis can be prevented,” said CDPH Commissioner Julie Morita, MD. “However, to prevent congenital syphilis, women must first get the necessary prenatal care. So if you’re pregnant or think you may be, get prenatal care as soon as possible. ”

Congenital syphilis occurs during natural childbirth if a mother has an untreated or inadequately treated (not right antibiotics or right dosage) case of syphilis. CS can cause major health impacts like premature and low birth weight in infants, deformities and even stillbirths. To protect against CS, pregnant women should be tested for syphilis during their initial prenatal visit and again during the third trimester. Some women may require more frequent testing or testing at delivery.

Syphilis can be safely and successfully treated in pregnant women to prevent transmission of infection to an unborn child. An infected baby may be born without signs or symptoms of congenital syphilis but could develop serious problems within a few weeks if not treated immediately with antibiotics.

CDPH has launched a new campaign to increase awareness of the growing risks from CS featuring transit and broadcasts ads that direct pregnant women to free prenatal care and online resources. In 2014, there were 20 cases of CS in Chicago, the majority of which were in babies born to African American women. Though small, that is an increase of nearly 33% since 2013. The ad campaign will include CTA ads in South and West side neighborhoods that have seen a disproportionate number of CS cases, as well as radio ads on WGCI.

“CS is a disease we can beat. With education and the access to a medical provider, every mom in Chicago can give their baby a healthy and happy start,” added Commissioner Morita.