5 ways STIs can affect your fertility

A quarter of all infertility cases are thought to be caused by an undiagnosed sexually transmitted infection.

Sexually Transmitted infections and fertility
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If you have you been trying to get pregnant for a year or more with no luck, it's normal to feel frustrated and start to worry that you might have an underlying health condition. But while eating a healthy diet, ensuring you get plenty of exercise and generally looking after your health will all stand you in better stead for improved fertility, you might not have considered your sexual health.

Nearly half a million people in the UK are diagnosed with a sexually transmitted infection (STI) every year. While STIs are upsetting and embarrassing, what many people don't realise is that some STIs can affect your fertility too. In fact, as many as a quarter of all infertility cases are thought to be linked to an undiagnosed STI.

The director at Harley Street Fertility Clinic Dr Geetha Venkat looks at the most common issues associated with STIs and fertility:

Pelvic inflammatory disease and fertility

Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is an infection in the upper genital tract and can be either asymptomatic or symptomatic. It is a serious condition because it can permanently damage the uterus and the fallopian tubes.

However, if PID is mild and treated early, your chances of conceiving are high. Sadly, if you have severe PID or it goes untreated, the chances of your tubes becoming blocked are higher. It's estimated that one in five women with PID have fertility problems.



Chlamydia or gonorrhoea and fertility

Both infections present absolutely no obvious symptoms at all, so you might not even realise that you're infected. Therefore, it's extremely important to get tested regularly — the longer you're infected with chlamydia or gonorrhoea, the greater the likelihood that these infections will damage your fallopian tubes and future fertility. It also means that you may be inadvertently infecting a partner, impacting their future fertility as well.

Chlamydia and male infertility

It might not be the mum-to-be who has an STI. The negative impact of chlamydia on male infertility is often underestimated. Chlamydia in men can damage sperm and cause scarring in the reproductive tract (which can lead to permanent infertility). It is estimated that around 25-50 per cent of all male chlamydia cases go completely unnoticed, so get yourself checked out.



Herpes simplex virus and fertility

In most cases, the herpes virus does not affect either a woman or a man's ability to conceive. However, the biggest detriment that herpes will have on a couple's fertility is the need to abstain from intercourse during an outbreak in either partner. This can limit their chances of conceiving depending on how long the outbreak is and how often they experience flare-ups.

Fallopian tube damage and fertility

Scarring or damage to the fallopian tubes can cause what is referred to as tubal infertility. Many cases of tubal disease are caused by infection such as PID. Scarred and damaged fallopian tubes can prevent sperm from reaching and fertilising the egg.

If an egg does get fertilised, blocked tubes can also keep that fertilised egg from reaching the uterus. This can increase your odds of having an ectopic pregnancy — when the embryo implants in the fallopian tube wall, rather than in the uterus wall.



Further help and support

If you are concerned about your sexual health, it's important that you get tested. For information on where to get tested for STIs, try one of the following:

  • Ask your GP for advice.
  • Find a sexual health clinic near you.
  • Try Brook's Find a Service tool
  • Find contraceptive services near you.
  • Call the national sexual health line 0300 123 7123.
  • Call Worth Talking About on 0300 123 2930 (for under-18s).
  • Some pharmacies also test for chlamydia.


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