Certain sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) like chlamydia or gonorrhea are so common they are often mistakenly thought of as a temporary nuisance. Though many STDs like these can be treated, delayed treatment or repeated infections can lead to long term problems, such as infertility.

While STDs can affect people of all ages, they are most common in teens and young adults. This group is more inclined to risky behavior and may be less likely to seek testing or treatment. The choices may seem to have small or no impact when they are young but can lead to major challenges later in life when they want to start a family.

Pelvic Inflammatory Disease

Chlamydia and gonorrhea are 2 of the most common STDs in the United States. They are both caused by a bacterium that is transmitted from an infected partner during oral, vaginal, or anal sex. Chlamydia does not always produce symptoms and gonorrhea is more readily apparent in men than in women.

Both of these infections can be treated with antibiotics. However, when they are left untreated, they can lead to a serious health complication known as Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID).

PID is a serious infection that can lead to infertility. PID causes scar tissue, or may cause an abscess to form in the fallopian tubes, which are responsible for transporting sperm towards an egg and moving the fertilized egg to the uterus. When the fallopian tubes are damaged, infertility can result.

Acute Epididymitis

The epididymis is a tiny, looped tubule that sits on the back of the testicle. The tubule stores sperm and makes a path for sperm to pass out of the body. Acute epididymitis is an inflammation of the epididymis that is short lasting. It can be caused by STDs, such as chlamydia and gonorrhea.

Epididymitis is treated with antibiotics and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. If left untreated, epididymitis can cause scarring that blocks the sperm’s progress through the epididymis and the vas deferens. If both testes are affected, it can lead to infertility.

The Link between HPV, Cervical Cancer, and Infertility

A sexually transmitted virus called the human papillomavirus (HPV) can cause cervical cells to begin the changes that can lead to cervical cancer. Cervical cancer is a disease in which cancer cells grow in the cervix. The cervix is the lower, narrow part of the uterus that connects the uterus with the vagina.

Cervical cancer is treated by removing the abnormal cells from the cervix. Some of these procedures can impact fertility, since removal of the tissue could make the cervix unable to remain closed during pregnancy. In some cases, a hysterectomy is needed to treat cervical cancer. This results in the inability to become pregnant.

Prevention

If you suspect you may have an STD, get medical care right away. You will also need to notify your sexual partners so they can be treated as well.

To reduce your chance of getting an STD that puts your fertility at risk:

  • Always use a latex condom during sex.
  • Have routine check-ups for STDs if you are a woman under the age of 25. Sexually active young men should consider screening, although there is no specific guideline.
  • Have check-ups often if you have other risk factors for getting STDs.
  • Have a monogamous relationship. Monogamous means only 1 sexual partner.
  • Talk to your doctor about whether the HPV vaccine is right for you. It is routinely given between the ages of 11-12. It may also be given between the ages of 9-26.
  • Get regular Pap tests to screen for cervical cancer. HPV can also be screened by testing the same sample of cells.