Chlamydia is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the UK, as reported by the NHS, and as a result, it affects many people at some point during their adult life. Although it can easily be treated with a routine course of antibiotics, it often shows no signs or symptoms. For this reason, chlamydia can remain undiagnosed for a long period of time and may lead to complications such as infertility. In this article, our specialists at Your Sexual Health will discuss everything surrounding the link between chlamydia and infertility.
So, can chlamydia make you infertile? Although the chlamydia bacterium itself does not cause infertility, if left untreated it can lead to complications that can cause infertility. For women, this condition is known as Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) and in men, research shows that it can damage the DNA within sperm leading to a high percentage of malformed and immobile cells.
Read on to find out more about the links between chlamydia and infertility, the symptoms that you should look out for and how it can be prevented.
Can Chlamydia Cause Infertility?
Although the chlamydia bacterium itself does not cause infertility, if left untreated it can lead to complications that can cause infertility. It manifests itself differently in how it can affect women and men. To find out more about links between different STDs and infertility check out our blog where we discussed all about it.
Can Chlamydia Make Women Infertile?
In short, yes it can. If chlamydia is left untreated for women it can develop into a condition known as Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID). PID can cause inflammation within the reproductive organs, including the womb, fallopian tubes and ovaries.
If this inflammation persists it can eventually cause damaging scarring of the fallopian tubes resulting in them becoming blocked. It’s this scarring and blocking which prevents the sperm from reaching the egg and as a result causes infertility. Another effect of PID is that it increases the risk of an ectopic pregnancy – a pregnancy which develops in the tube rather than the womb. Chlamydia causes PID, so therefore chlamydia can cause infertility.
What are The Symptoms of Pelvic Inflammatory Disease?
Although pelvic inflammatory disease may not cause any symptoms specific to the condition, many women may notice mild symptoms. These can include: –
- Pain during sex that is felt deep within the pelvis
- Pain around the pelvis and lower abdomen
- Pain during urination
- Bleeding after sex and between periods
- Heavy or painful periods
- Vaginal discharge
Other symptoms can sometimes include more severe pain in the abdomen, fever and vomiting.
It’s worth noting that many of these symptoms can often be associated with other female health issues. For that reason, it’s important to visit a doctor if you notice any of the above.
Can Chlamydia Make Men Infertile?
Chlamydia can also cause issues with the male reproductive organs. Research suggests that the chlamydia bacteria can dramatically damage the DNA within sperm leading to a high percentage of malformed and immobile cells. Luckily the effects can be reversed with effective antibiotic treatment, but this can only be administered following effective testing and diagnosis.
There is also the risk of long-term damage to male fertility. It’s been proven that, when left untreated, chlamydia can cause a condition known as epididymitis. Similar to PID in women, the condition causes inflammation and scarring to the tubes that carry the sperm resulting in infertility.
What are The Symptoms of Epididymitis?
Epididymitis is often painful making it easy to spot. Symptoms include: –
- Swollen, red or warm scrotum
- Painful urination and frequent urge to urinate
- Tenderness and pain of the testicles, usually on one side that comes on gradually
- Penile discharge
- Blood in the semen
- Abdominal or pelvic pain
The condition rarely causes reduced fertility in males, however the longer you leave the symptoms without treatment, the more lasting the effects are likely to be. This can include scarring of the internal tissue.
How Long Before Chlamydia Causes Infertility
There is no definitive timeline for how long chlamydia can take to cause infertility. The NHS estimates that 1 in 10 women will develop PID within a year of contracting chlamydia. This is why it is so important to have an STI screening after every sexual encounter with a new partner to help catch and treat any STIs that may have been contracted.
If you are experiencing any signs of PID or epididymitis it’s important to speak to your healthcare provider as soon as possible to help get the treatment you need.
How to Prevent Complications with Chlamydia?
The most effective way to prevent complications, including infertility, arising as a result of chlamydia is to avoid catching it through the practice of safe sex. This includes: –
- Always using a condom when having sex with a new partner
- Making sure your partner gets tested before having sex for the first time
- Getting tested regularly, at least once a year
However, even if you haven’t had sex with a new partner for a long time you may have chlamydia without even realising. The condition often shows no symptoms and the only effective way of diagnosing it is through testing. To avoid complications it’s still worth getting tested, particularly if you are trying for a baby.
If chlamydia is diagnosed a number of years after you contracted the STI it can still be easily treated using antibiotics.
Chlamydia Testing at Your Sexual Health
Your Sexual Health have a wide range of private chlamydia tests including home visits and postal test kits. Our service is completely confidential and designed with your convenience in mind. Simply book your tests and we will take care of the rest. Contact our customer services team to find out more.