STDs May Affect Your Fertility
Sexually transmitted diseases, also known as STDs, are infections that are spread through sexual intercourse and can affect your fertility. STDs can lead to many serious health problems when left untreated. Although many people learn about the most common symptoms of STDs, such as discharge, ulcers, and pain, most are unaware that STDs can also affect your long-term fertility. Certain STDs can make it more difficult to get pregnant, or can negatively affect a fetus or newborn baby.
Below we will talk about common STDs and how they can affect your fertility.
The Top 5 Common STDs That Can Affect Your Fertility
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website chlamydia is one of the most commonly reported STDs in the United States. In 2018, there were nearly 1.8 million cases of chlamydia reported. The disease is most common in sexually active young adults where more than half of all reported cases were in people between the ages of 18 to 24.
Many people are asymptomatic for chlamydia, meaning they have or show zero symptoms. This means that many people have the disease without even realizing it. It usually takes weeks after exposure for symptoms to appear. Chlamydia can cause damage to the reproductive system of an infected person if left untreated.
How does chlamydia affect fertility?
In women, chlamydia can cause pelvic inflammatory disease once it spreads to a woman's uterus or Fallopian tubes. Pelvic inflammatory disease can damage both the Fallopian tubes and the uterus. This can lead to infertility or ectopic pregnancy, which is a complication of pregnancy where an embryo attaches outside of the uterus. Ectopic pregnancies are very serious and require medicine or surgery and can lead to the death of the pregnant woman.
Even if pelvic inflammatory disease doesn't show symptoms initially, it can still cause permanent damage to a woman's reproductive system. Chlamydia can also affect women that were already pregnant at the time of infection.
According to the CDC, chlamydia can cause you to deliver your baby prematurely and the disease can also be passed to the newborn during delivery. If this occurs, it may lead to pneumonia or serious eye infections in the newborn.
Is chlamydia treatable?
Proper treatment can cure chlamydia. A doctor can prescribe medication that can stop the infection and decrease your chances of having complications from the disease.
It is recommended that you refrain from sex until treatment for both you and your partner has been completed. You should also wait seven days after taking your medication before having sex with anyone.
Gonorrhea is also a commonly reported STD in the United States. According to the CDC, there were nearly 600,000 reported cases in the U.S. Gonorrhea most frequently affects teens to young adults between the ages of 15 to 35. Similarly to chlamydia, many people with gonorrhea will be free of any symptoms.
It may cause pain when urinating and discharge from both the penis and the vagina. Gonorrhea can also lead to fertility issues in both men and women.
How does gonorrhea affect fertility?
Gonorrhea can affect the prostate and testicles in men if left untreated. It can also lead to epididymitis, which is the inflammation of the epididymis. The epididymis is located towards the back of the testicles and is responsible for carrying and storing sperm. If left untreated it may permanently damage the epididymis which stops sperm from passing from the testicles, leading to infertility.
Gonorrhea, like chlamydia, can also lead to pelvic inflammatory disease in women. As mentioned above, pelvic inflammatory disease can permanently damage a woman's reproductive system.
Is gonorrhea treatable?
Seek out a healthcare professional if you suspect that you may have gonorrhea. Fortunately, gonorrhea is also treatable with modern antibiotics. Certain emerging strains of gonorrhea are antibiotic-resistant. So treating this type of gonorrhea may require multiple doses and/or stronger antibiotics.
3. Human Papillomavirus (HPV)
According to the CDC, Human Papillomavirus, also called HPV, is the most common STD in the United States. There are nearly 79 million Americans currently infected with HPV. HPV is most commonly seen in people in their late teens or early 20's. Nearly 45% of men and 40 % of women between the ages of 18 and 59 are infected with HPV. HPV will typically go away on its own and causes no health problems. Even if an individual has zero symptoms of HPV, they can still infect someone else.
On average, the lifespan of an HPV infection is between four and twenty months. However, in some cases, HPV stays in the body and can lead to symptoms such as genital warts and cancer. The symptoms of HPV may also develop years after a person is infected.
How does HPV affect fertility?
HPV can cause multiple types of cancers in an infected person. These types of cancers include mouth, throat, cervical, vulvar, vaginal, penile, and anal. Although HPV itself may not cause infertility, it may cause cancerous cells to form in a woman's cervix. The treatment for cervical cancer, such as chemotherapy or a hysterectomy, can negatively impact a woman's chances of becoming pregnant.
Is HPV treatable?
HPV will typically go away on its own after a few months to a couple years. There is currently a vaccine available that can prevent you from being infected by HPV. It is recommended that children be vaccinated between the ages of 11 and 12, but you can be vaccinated up to the age of 26. It is also recommended that women should have yearly pap smear examinations in order to get precancerous cells treated quickly.
Unlike the previously mentioned STDs on this list, syphilis has different stages and symptoms associated with it. Syphilis is divided into four stages, with each passing stage having more serious symptoms. It can start with sores in the primary stages, to complications with the heart and brain in the later stages.
There were over 115,000 cases of syphilis reported in the United States in 2018, which is 13.3% higher than the previous year. Although syphilis is less prevalent now than it was in the mid-1900s, the rate of reported syphilis cases has increased almost every year since 2001.
How does syphilis affect fertility?
If a woman is pregnant, the infection can be passed on to the unborn baby. Syphilis increases the chances of premature or stillborn birth. An infected baby may not immediately display any symptoms of the disease. Serious problems can develop in a newborns if they are untreated.
These health problems may include cataracts, deafness, seizures, or death. Syphilis, like gonorrhea, can also cause epididymitis in male reproductive organs which can cause male infertility.
Is syphilis treatable?
People should contact a health care provider immediately if they have or think they may have syphilis. A blood test can be used to show the presence of syphilis. Proper antibiotics and treatment can cure it. The earlier syphilis is treated the better, because treatments are unable to undo damage that has already been done to the infected individual.
Like most STD treatments, having syphilis once does not prevent you from being re-infected. It is recommended to follow-up with a health care provider in order to make sure that the treatment was successful.
5. Genital Herpes
Genital herpes is another extremely common STD. One out of every six people between the ages of 14 and 49 in the United States is infected with genital herpes according to the CDC. Herpes often displays no symptoms. Most people with genital herpes have either no symptoms or very mild symptoms. Symptoms of genital herpes are often mistaken for other skin conditions, such as ingrown hairs or pimples.
Even without apparent symptoms, an infected person can still spread the disease to their sexual partner. According to statistics on the CDC website, the rate of infected people in the United States has been declining over the last several years.
How does genital herpes affect fertility?
Genital herpes does not affect a woman's ability to get pregnant and most women with genital herpes still have healthy babies. However, if an infected mother has an outbreak during their third trimester of pregnancy, genital herpes can be spread to their baby during delivery.
This causes the newborn baby to develop neonatal herpes which can cause the child to have brain damage, eye problems, or in some cases death. This can be avoided by taking medication and delivering through a cesarean section.
Is genital herpes treatable?
There is currently no cure for herpes, but there are medicines available that can prevent or shorten outbreaks. Daily uses of certain medications can also help lower the chances of infecting a partner. Be aware that genital herpes is a lifelong disease and that an infected person can pass on the virus at any time.
There are currently clinical trials of vaccines against herpes being tested now and we hope that they are completed and publicly available soon!
What does this mean for you?
It is important to be aware of how STDs can impact fertility in order to protect your health, your partner's health and the health of your future children. A lot of people are unaware that they carry these STDs due to the fact that many on this list have little to no symptoms. Consulting with a health care professional early can be critical in helping cure the disease for those STDs that are treatable.
It is important to always be safe and take the appropriate measures to protect your own health and well being. Getting tested for STDs regularly and using condoms are among the best methods to keep yourself protected. There are also many fertility treatment options available for people that are looking for alternative ways to conceive.
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