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What is the Connection Between Chlamydia and Fertility?

By L. Whitaker
Updated May 17, 2024
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There is a clear connection between chlamydia and fertility in women who have been exposed to the disease. Chlamydia is a sexually transmitted disease (STD) that can damage a woman's reproductive organs if left untreated. It is called a "silent STD" because many women do not experience any symptoms. Severe damage to the uterus or fallopian tubes could decrease a woman's ability to get pregnant in the future or increase the likelihood of a dangerous condition called ectopic pregnancy. Pregnant women with chlamydia are also more likely to experience premature birth and to pass on the infection to the newborn child, potentially leading to eye infections or pneumonia.

Chlamydia is a common STD that is frequently asymptomatic, leading to a greater chance of being spread without the knowledge of the individuals affected. In women, up to 75 percent of individuals are infected without any symptoms. The link between chlamydia and fertility occurs when the disease progresses without treatment, leading to pelvic inflammatory disease and potential damage to the fallopian tubes or uterus. Pelvic inflammatory disease occurs in up to 15 percent of women with untreated chlamydia. These conditions increase the risk of ectopic pregnancy, in which a fetus develops outside the uterus, often threatening the life of the pregnant woman.

Teenage girls or women under the age of 25 are believed to be at greater risk of contracting chlamydia. Their immature cervical development makes them more susceptible to exposure. Chlamydia can be passed on through vaginal, anal, or oral sex as well as being passed from mother to newborn during childbirth.

When symptoms do occur, they generally arise between one and three weeks after sexual contact with an infected partner. Symptoms could include a bad-smelling vaginal discharge, pain during menstruation or sexual intercourse, or burning and itching in the vaginal area. If the infection spreads from the cervix to the fallopian tubes, more severe symptoms might include lower back pain, abdominal pain, fever, nausea, or pain during sexual intercourse.

Treatment for this condition usually includes an oral antibiotic such as Zithromax®. When possible, both sexual partners should be treated for the infection before engaging in sexual intercourse again. A severe infection might require the individual to be hospitalized to receive intravenous antibiotics and pain medication.

Awareness of the link between chlamydia and fertility could lead young women to use caution in their sexual activities. Experts urge sexually active women to always use a condom correctly with a male partner and to limit the number of sexual partners. A monogamous relationship with an uninfected partner or sexual abstinence are the two most effective ways to avoid contracting this disease. Women who have multiple sexual partners should be tested regularly for chlamydia due to the fact that the disease is frequently asymptomatic. Repeated infection is possible, as exposure to chlamydia does not lead to immunity.

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