Most people think about STDs in the present – as in, “I don’t want an STD…,” “It would be so embarrassing to have an STD…,” or “I keep putting off getting screened for STDs.”
What they don’t know is that STDs can cause infertility.
STDs Can Cause Infertility When Left Untreated
According to recent research, tubal factor infertility is largely the result of untreated sexually transmitted diseases. Tubal factor infertility pertains to infertility caused by damage, scarring and/or blockages in the fallopian tube. Sexually transmitted diseases can travel through the reproductive tract, eventually causing scarring or damage that is beyond the ability for surgical repair. The same scarring that affects the fallopian tubes can affect virtually any area of the reproductive tract, making it more difficult to conceive.
STDs, like chlamydia and gonorrhea are notorious for causing pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), which also causes scarring severe enough to impede ovulation, conception or the ability to carry a baby full-term. In fact, the CDC is so concerned about the long-term effects of untreated STDs that they recommend chlamydia and gonorrhea screening for all sexually active women under the age of 25.
Be Proactive to Prevent STDs
One of the best things you can do to protect your future fertility is to be proactive about preventing STDs, getting screened for STDs and checking in with your OB/GYN at the first sign that you might have an STD.
Don’t ignore signs of an STD
Know the signs of common STDs, which include:
- Itchy or painful bumps
- Pain or discomfort while urinating
- Unusual, strangely colored and/or foul smelling discharge
- Pelvic pain or discomfort
- Pelvic/abdominal tenderness
Use Adequate Protection
Just as it only takes one time to get pregnant, it only takes one, unprotected sexual experience to contract an STD. Always use condoms and/or dental diaphragms when participating in sexual activities involving penetration or the exchange of bodily fluids (vaginal, anal and oral sex, for example).
If you do have unprotected sex, talk to your doctor about whether you should be screened.
Get screened for STDs regularly
We find that many of our clients in their later-20s and early 30s aren’t as diligent about using protection as they should be. For this reason, we recommend getting screened for STDs if you are sexually active, with multiple partners (or with a non-monogamous partner) and/or you aren’t diligent about using condoms/dental dams.
The good news is that screening is free if you have health insurance and is typically free, or very low-cost, at any of the area’s regional health clinics. Fortunately, the wide majority of STDs – including chlamydia and gonorrhea – are treatable with good ol’ fashioned antibiotics.
STDs Cause Infertility in Both Women and Men
Women aren’t the only ones at risk. While STD-related infertility is less common in men, a history of STDs increases a man’s chances of being diagnosed with an infertility factor. Insist that your sexual partner be screened with you to rule out any chances he might have an STD.
Are you due for an STD screening? Are you concerned your sexual history might put you at risk for STD-related infertility? Schedule a consultation with us here at Overlake OB/GYN.