How do STDs affect fertility in women?

hiv-std-fertility
Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) or Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) can cause a wide range of health complications, one of which is infertility.

When treated correctly, not all STDs or STIs will cause infertility and it really is dependent on the woman’s body, how soon it was treated, and what the disease itself is.

According to the American Social Health Association, as many as 15 percent of the women who are infertile can link their infertility directly back to an STD [1].

The reason for infertility can be linked to pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) which is generally preventable (when linked with a previous STD) and causes scarring on the fallopian tubes and organs[2].

This is especially true of STDs, which have no symptoms (and a few do). Which is why protecting yourself is important because you might not know you actually have an STD/STI because there are no symptoms and the longer it goes untreated, the more likely it is to affect your fertility.

In order to protect your health and your ability to conceive in the future, it’s important to protect yourself. If you don’t know if your partner is free from an infection/disease, then you’ll want to consider using condoms.

This can protect you and your body now and in the future. Below you’ll find a review of some of the more commonly known STDs/STIs and how they can affect your fertility as a woman.

Chlamydia

Chlamydia is a rather common STD. In fact, among STDs, it is the biggest causer of infertility in women. The disease is most common in people aged between 15 and 29 years.

According to the CDC, there are over 2.8 million people diagnosed with chlamydia every year [3].

It is also more prevalent in women than men. Chlamydia is asymptomatic so it’s easy for one to get the infection and stay for a long time without being diagnosed or treated.

One issue with this, because of its lack of symptoms, is that woman don’t get tested, because they don’t know they have it, and because it’s also not routine in the screening [4].

If you are with a new partner, or your significant other has other partners as well (because open relationships are a thing), be honest with yourself and each other in order to be sure that you aren’t contracting anything and also request to be tested for it when you go for your yearly screening at least.

Chlamydia in women, if left untreated, can cause inflammatory pelvic disease (PID). PID often causes ectopic pregnancy and tubal infertility.

It’s not only women who might become infertile, it can also affect men, and if a man does have an infection it could mean the couple is one third less likely to get pregnant [5].

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Gonorrhea

Gonorrhea can cause just as much damage as Chlamydia (and if you do get pregnant, it’s actually the leading cause of blindness in newborns [6]). There are more than 800,000 people who are diagnosed with gonorrhea yearly in the United States alone [7].

This makes it the second most common STI/STD in the US [8]. Like Chlamydia, it also can go undetected as well and can also cause damage to the health of male sperm as well.

Because it’s the second most common disease, it’s also the second most preventable cause of infertility [9].

Click here to order Chlamydia & Gonorrhea at-home test!

Human Papillomavirus (HPV)

We’d be remiss to not include HPV in this article. This STD/STI has become extremely popular (in not the best way). The numbers are staggering with about 79 million people in the US currently walking around with it [10].

However, there are more than 100 strains and 40 of those are STI’s. Some cause genital warts and a few can cause cancer [11].

While neither of these inherently cause infertility, having surgery to clear the pre-cancerous cells can make changes to your cervix, potentially making it weaker an unable to hold a pregnancy or result in a miscarriage [12].

If you do get pregnant (and it’s your first pregnancy) you will be considered higher risk and be seen more often.

HIV

aids
AIDS/HIV is a well-known STD, but it is the one that is not curable at this time (however medical advances may one day find a cure). The disease can be transmitted through sexual intercourse or from mother to baby during pregnancy and during breastfeeding.

HIV has no cure and there are no vaccines to prevent it. The only way to prevent infections is through safe sex practices and controlled pregnancies.

HIV doesn’t affect fertility, however, the potential of transmitting the disease is strong. But you can also discuss with your doctor options to help prevent the child from contracting the disease through medications and a planned C-Section [13].

So, while this being here is kind of a misnomer because getting pregnant is not an issue, it’s the birthing process that could be challenging.

Click here to order HIV at-home test!

Genital herpes

Genital herpes is also fairly common among sexually active people. It is caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV). Genital symptoms include painful urination, painful blisters, and vaginal discharge.

Close to 75% of all women diagnosed with herpes experience at least one flare-up during pregnancy.

Herpes does not affect a persons ability to physically get pregnant, however, during an outbreak, it is advised that the patients do abstain from having intercourse, which depending on the length of the outbreak and how often and when they occur it could inhibit the timeframe for which to conceive [14].

Trichomoniasis

Trichomoniasis, also popular as trich, is an infection caused by a tiny, one-cell parasite and spread through sexual contact. It affects both men and women but is more common in women where the parasite usually infects the vagina, urethra, cervix, and bladder.

Many times the disease will come without symptoms. However, where the symptoms develop, they usually appear within about a week after infection.

Symptoms in women include a change in vaginal discharge; you will notice an abnormal color or odor. Vaginal itching is also common as well as pain during sex. The reason this can cause infertility is due to the potential fallopian tube inflammation which can affect the ability to conceive [15].

Click here to order Trichomoniasis and Herpes at-home test!

Summary

There are a few other STDs such as Mycoplasma genitalia and Syphilis, which were not discussed here that can affect the fertility of a woman.

In general, if you are seeing someone new, in an open relationship (either you or your partner) whatever the case may be, protect yourself. There is only one way to protect against and STI/STD and that is condoms.

So, no, we aren’t saying to stay away because sex is a natural part of life, just be safe while having fun. If you do believe you have an infection, talk to your doctor and get tested, and you can also ask for testing at your yearly if necessary as well.

References

  1. Hethir Rodriguez via Natural Fertility Info. How STD’s Can Affect Your Fertility. URL]
  2. Elizabeth Boskey, Ph.D. via VeryWell health. Can STDs Affect My Ability to Have Children? URL]
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs). URL]
  4. See Above #3
  5. Emma Kaywin via Bustle. 6 STDs That Can Affect Fertility. URL]
  6. See Above #5
  7. See Above #3
  8. See Above #2
  9. See Above #2
  10. See Above #5
  11. See Above #5
  12. See Above #5
  13. See Above #5
  14. See Above #1
  15. See Above #1
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