For a lot of women, when you’re in your 20’s the last thing you’re thinking about is having a baby. What with trying to climb the corporate ladder, travelling to exotic places and hanging out with friends, where does that even leave time for thinking about the next generation. But it is at this time that you should think about how your sexual health can affect your future fertility.
STIs and Fertility
You and your partner’s sexual health is so very important in your journey to have a baby. With the variety and prevalence of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) worldwide, these can impact fertility health and pregnancy.
The majority of STIs are caused by over 30 different bacteria, viruses and parasites. Many STIs fail to present with symptoms, and some can directly impact your fertility and reproductive organ health.
What STIs do I need to be aware of?
Chlamydia: One of the most common STIs, is caused by the Chlamydia trachomatis (C. trachomatis) bacteria. If left untreated in women, it can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) and infertility.
Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID): PID is a complication of having an STI like chlamydia. PID can lead to infertility, an ectopic pregnancy, scar tissue which can form both outside and inside the fallopian tubes which in turn can lead to tubal blockage, and long-term abdominal pain.
Acute epididymitis: A male STI often caused by C. trachomatis or N. gonorrhoeae that causes redness, warmth and swelling of the testes. If left untreated, severe cases can become or cause chronic epididymitis. This can lead to infertility in men by causing blockage in the vas deferens, affecting sperm count and mobility.
HPV (human papillomavirus) is one of the most common STI worldwide. Generally, the HPV will be cleared by your immune system eventually, but some strains of HPV are harder to get rid of and have the potential to become pre-cancerous.
If a cervical screening test reveals that you have pre-cancerous cells on your cervix, your specialist might need to perform procedures meant to remove those cells.
In a small number of cases, these procedures can pose a risk of harming your fertility by changing the way your cervix produces mucus — which can make it harder for the sperm to get to where they need to go. In other cases, where the biopsy is particularly large, it could compromise your cervical integrity, upping your risk of miscarriage once you do get pregnant.
What should I do?
Ultimately, you should feel comfortable to discuss if you have any history of STIs, and talk to your fertility specialist about what your options are.
Don’t feel embarrassed, and don’t give up hope. The key is to communicate with me and we can figure out what’s going on with enough time to take care of what’s important for your wellbeing and fertility health.