Chlamydia and infertility – what you need to know
Chlamydia's a very common STI - and it can cause nasty conditions that go on to affect your fertility. But can chlamydia stop you from getting pregnant altogether? Here's all you need to know, including symptoms and treatments
Did you know that Chlamydia is one of the most common sexually-transmitted infections (STIs) in the UK?
And, yep, you guessed it: it can have an impact on your fertility, and in some cases can even make you infertile.
So, it’s important to know what you’re dealing with, what symptoms to look out for – plus how to get checked, and then treated.
Here’s everything you need to know about chlamydia, how chlamydia affects fertility, symptoms to look out for and treatment…
What is chlamydia?
Chlamydia is a bacteria-like organism, which is passed around during unprotected vaginal, oral or anal sex. (That’s sex without a condom – other forms of contraception only protect against pregnancy).
In 2007, it was estimated that 10% of all sexually active young people in the UK were infected with chlamydia.
11 years later, and it’s so widespread that the NHS still recommends that sexually active under 25s get checked every year, or every time they get a new sexual partner.
What are the symptoms?
Worryingly, there often aren’t any signs or symptoms to suggest that anything’s wrong. In fact, 70% of women and 50% of men don’t have any symptoms at all. For those that do, it might feel similar to an infection of the urethra or cervix.
For women, the 30% who DO get symptoms might also experience, according to the NHS:
- cystitis-like symptoms
- a small increase in vaginal discharge
- bleeding between periods or after sex
- discomfort during sex may arise if the cervix becomes very inflamed.
How does chlamydia affect fertility?
If left untreated, the infection can lie dormant for several months before travelling through the cervix to infect the fallopian tubes, leading to Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID).
PID can cause unpleasant and painful symptoms such as:
- stomach or pelvis pain
- 'discomfort or pain during sex that's felt deep inside the pelvis'
- pain while having a wee
- bleeding between periods or after sex
- painful or heavy periods
- vaginal discharge that's not normal for you - especially if yellow or green.
In extreme cases, you might experience severe pain, a fever and nausea/vomiting.
However, many women have a less acute inflammation that produces few if any symptoms.
When PID isn’t taken care of, it can eventually lead to blockage or scarring of the fallopian tubes and subsequent infertility.
The NHS website estimates that around 10% of women with PID will very sadly become infertile as a result.
Can chlamydia cause other problems?
In addition to infertility in women, chlamydia can have a negative impact on male health, too. It can cause epididymo-orchitis (basically a short-but-still-long way of saying ‘inflammation of the testicles’).
In some cases, it can also go on to cause reactive arthritis, which is caused by STIs and can affect multiple parts of your body.
It usually lasts around 3 – 6 months (12 in some cases), after the STI has been caught and treated.
Essentially, all we’re saying is that you don’t want this infection to run away from you. Best to catch it quick, and treat it quick.
How to get checked for chlamydia
To get checked for chlamydia is surprisingly easy – just arrange a test at your local sexual health/GUM clinic. Your GP may also be able to arrange a quick test.
Infection in men is diagnosed from a urethral swab, and infection in women is diagnosed from a cervical swab and a urethral swab.
Anything that doesn’t feel right, tell your doc – as it may help them determine if you’ve got any of the conditions it can cause.
What's the treatment for chlamydia?
It’s really easy for docs to treat the chlamydia infection itself – just a course of antibiotics, which your GP or GUM clinic can prescribe.
Any conditions that occur as a result can also be treated with antibiotics, in the early stages.
The NHS says those who catch PID early will get prescribed a 14-day course, a mix of injections and tablets, to clear up the infection.
Have your say (anonymously!)
Would you be willing to talk about your own fertility experience after chlamydia? Perhaps you conceived just fine – or you’ve had PID and want to share your story?
Images: Getty Images