Trying to conceiveUnexplained infertility

Chlamydia – the silent threat to fertility

Chlamydia is a sexually transmitted disease caused by the bacteria called Chlamydia trachomatis. This is the most common bacterial sexual infection, with over 100 million people getting infected each year. In the last ten years, the infection rate of chlamydia has doubled in the UK. And this is not the only reason for concern.

The most vicious side of chlamydia is the silence – in majority of cases, women have no symptoms whatsoever and without appropriate tests, there is no way of knowing that they’re infected. Since chlamydia doesn’t get as much attention as other STDs, such as HIV and hepatitis, many young women are not aware of this threat and they don’t get tested until they start experiencing problems conceiving.

How does chlamydia affect fertility?

If left untreated, chlamydia can cause inflammation of the reproductive organs. The inflammation can develop into the Pelvic Inflammatory Disease or PID, causing pain in the lower abdomen, pain while having sex, fever, discharge, burning sensation when peeing, etc. If the inflammation isn’t treated, it creates scar tissue on the Fallopian tubes, uterus and surrounding tissues, leading to tubal blockage and consequential infertility, ectopic pregnancy, miscarriage, stillbirth or premature delivery. Chlamydia has also been connected to endometriosis.

There are some findings suggesting that the ability to fight the infection is genetically determined – some women show genetic variations that do not allow their immune systems to recognise the bacteria and react accordingly.

Since one in five women infected with chlamydia develop PID, chlamydia is considered to be the most common cause of female infertility. Studies have also shown a connection between chlamydia and unexplained infertility – you will be able to read more about it next week.

What can you do about it?

Chlamydia can be easily detected through a urine test and effectively treated with a single dose of antibiotics. Keeping this in mind, it is even more worrying that so many women suffer permanent consequences from this vicious disease.

If you are sexually active and under 25 years old, you should get tested for chlamydia every year or whenever you change your sexual partner. For women older than 25, the recommendation is to get tested whenever you have a change of sexual partners as well. It’s important to know that in this case, theory and practice do not go hand in hand – less than 40% of women are being tested for chlamydia and the ones who receive the treatment get re-infected in 25% of the cases, simply because their partners do not receive the treatment at the same time.

If you haven’t done your chlamydia test since your previous sexual partner, don’t hesitate – your fertility may be at stake.

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