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Does chlamydia cause infertility?

A question on many patient’s minds

Chlamydia is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the UK 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.

To help answer your questions and guide your concerns the specialist team at Your Sexual Healthhave put together this useful article.

Chlamydia and infertility

In women

Although the chlamydia bacterium itself does not cause infertility in women, if left untreated 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.

In Men

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.

Spotting signs 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 of 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.

Spotting signs 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 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 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.

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 take care of the rest. Contact our customer services team to find out more.