Finding out you have a sexually transmitted disease (STD) comes with many emotions — shock, anger, fear. Is it curable? How will this affect your life? How are you going to tell people you date in the future? And — if you’re planning on someday having children — will it affect your fertility? The answer is, it depends on which type of condition you have.
The problem is that some STDs often don’t have any symptoms, so women could be living with them for years without being aware of it. This increases the risk of infecting their partners, as well as developing complications such as infertility. Early detection is crucial, since infertility caused by sexually transmitted diseases is easily preventable.
Which STDs cause infertility?
Chlamydia. This is one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases. The disease, on its own, doesn’t inherently cause infertility. However, up to 40% of women with chlamydia eventually develop pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), which affects the cervix, uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries — often leading to infertility. What makes the condition more insidious is that most people who are infected with chlamydia don’t have any symptoms, so they’re not even aware they have it. In the rare instance a person experiences signs of the disease, they may notice unusual vaginal discharge, a burning sensation while urinating, and/or painful sexual intercourse. The good news is that chlamydia can be cured with antibiotics. Therefore, it’s crucial to detect it early.
Gonorrhea. This is another sexually transmitted disease that rarely has any symptoms. People who do notice signs typically experience spotting between periods, a burning sensation when urinating, or a white, yellow, or green vaginal discharge. The infection affects the urethra and the cervix. Treated early, it can be cured with antibiotics. Left untreated, it can spread to the uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries. It can cause scarring in the fallopian tubes — which makes it difficult for sperm to reach an egg — and increases the risk of pelvic inflammatory disease.
Human Papillomavirus (HPV). This is the most common sexually transmitted disease in the United States. It consists of a group of more than 150 viruses. And, some of which can lead to cancer of the reproductive organs. Most people who have HPV don’t experience any symptoms. This is why it’s crucial to have annual exams with your OB-GYN. Early detection can prevent complications, such as cancer of the vulva or cervix. While HPV itself won’t cause infertility, advanced cancer in the reproductive organs may require removing portions or all of the organ — which in turn, can lead to infertility.
How To Prevent Infertility
Once a sexually transmitted disease has made someone infertile, they may still be able to conceive through in vitro fertilization (IVF). Through this process, eggs are harvested from a woman’s body, fertilized in a petri dish, and inserted into her womb. However, this process is expensive, time-consuming, and can be emotionally draining — since it isn’t always successful.
Since STDs can remain in a woman’s body for years without showing any symptoms, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends annual screenings for all sexually active women who have multiple sexual partners, a new sex partner, or a partner who’s previously been infected.
Contact Us at OB-GYN Women’s Center
At OB-GYN, we aim to establish trusting relationships with our patients. If you have any questions about your reproductive health, don’t be afraid to ask. We are here to help you.
Contact us to schedule an appointment. We’ll answer all of your questions and strive to procure the best treatment for you.