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It’s not a pleasant subject to talk about, but it’s a reality: According to the U.S. Center for Disease Control, Chlamydia is the most commonly-reported sexually transmitted disease (STD) in the United States. Although it’s the most prevalent in younger women, Chlamydia is passed among women and men of all ages, often going undetected. Untreated, it represents a potentially serious threat to women’s reproductive health. But can it actually cause infertility?
Chlamydia Trachomatis is a rather ordinary type of bacteria, transmitted like most other STDs through vaginal, anal, and oral contact. Its symptoms range from mild to severe, although many people who contract it show no symptoms.
The most typical signs are pain during urination or sexual intercourse, which can also be symptomatic of a lot of other conditions, making testing imperative. More serious indications include vaginal discharges, fever, bleeding, nausea, and abdominal pain; symptoms may also extend to the rectal area. However, an outbreak of these symptoms doesn’t necessarily result in infertility, and antibiotics can clear up a Chlamydia infection.
The real danger to pregnancy occurs when the disease goes undetected and untreated for a long period of time.
There are so many reasons why some women are unable to become pregnant. As a general rule, Chlamydia’s typically not one of those reasons, but it does potentially pose a long-term threat to a woman’s child-bearing ability.
Like other STDs such as gonorrhea, Chlamydia can easily lead to complications, such as Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID), which is an infection of the reproductive organs. Severe, untreated PID can cause long-lasting damage.
Other problems, such as cervicitis (infection of the cervix), or tissue damage to the uterus itself, can complicate pregnancy and delivery; it’s even possible to transmit a Chlamydia infection from mother to a fetus, with the baby being born with an active case.
In ordinary, healthy pregnancies, the woman’s egg is fertilized by the man’s sperm, coming together to create an embryo which then travels down the fallopian tubes to be implanted in the uterus, where it will develop over the next nine months.
Any problems along this pathway can hinder gestation, and the tissue scars in the fallopian tubes left by a serious Chlamydia infection may prevent the embryo from making its way to the uterus. This is where the issue of infertility comes in: An embryo that can’t implant into the uterus is not viable and will end in a miscarriage and possibly long-term health problems for the mother. Removal of scar tissue in the fallopian tubes is possible through a surgical procedure called fimbriosplasty.
One of the results of excessive scar tissue in the fallopian tubes by Chlamydial infections is an Ectopic Pregnancy, a serious condition in which the embryo grows outside of the uterus, almost always in the fallopian tubes. And an embryo that begins to develop in the tubes, causes fluid to builds up (a condition called hydrosalpinx), causing an eventual rupture. This is a very dangerous situation, as it can cause internal bleeding and actually threaten the mother’s life.
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But the good news is that women who have suffered ectopic pregnancies can later become pregnant again and carry successfully to term, although they have a slightly greater chance of having another ectopic pregnancy. A fertility specialist may be recommended to offset any future complications following an ectopic pregnancy.
Like many diseases, Chlamydia doesn’t have to be a serious problem if it’s caught early enough; it certainly doesn’t have to crush your dreams of becoming pregnant. Ideally, the best time to treat it is before any symptoms develop, or at least, when they first appear and are still relatively minor. Early detection and treatment of STDs will keep the reproductive system healthy and keep infertility from becoming a problem. Unfortunately, a lot of women are infected but don’t know it because they’re asymptomatic.
It’s equally important for men to be tested as well, as they can spread Chlamydia, which can also cause them health problems. For individuals who have multiple sexual partners, regular testing is a must, and any discomfort should be investigated as soon as possible—a good rule of thumb for any medical condition.
If you think you’re experiencing symptoms of Chlamydia—or any other problems related to your reproductive health—a quality diagnosis and the right treatment are your first lines of defense. Our fertility specialist Tijuana in The Fertility Center is your source for both. Our renowned specialists are experienced in every aspect of the fertilization process, offering a full range of OB-GYN services, prenatal screenings, egg and sperm freezing, and even male reproductive health treatment. We’re eager to see you and help you meet your goals. Contact us for an initial consultation today! Ask for our best services such as IVF in Tijuana.
Gynecology, Obstetrics and Biology of Human Reproduction Surgeon at the Autonomous University of Guadalajara, specialist Biologist of Human Reproduction by the Mexican Institute of Infertility.
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