How do sexually transmitted infections affect a couple’s plans for getting pregnant pregnancy?
I often recommend that my patients – both male and female – go for a sexual health test either at their local hospital (at the genito-urinary medicine clinic) or at a private clinic because a previously untreated sexually transmitted infection (STI) can be a cause of infertility. It seems obvious, but it is still worth pointing out that a man who suffers from an infection could either be harming his own future fertility, if he develops prostatitis (inflammation of the prostate gland), for example, or his partner’s fertility if he infects her. The same applies if a woman infects her partner.
Sexually transmitted infections are often symptomless. This is why it is important to be screened so that, if necessary, you can be diagnosed and treated as early as possible, and before the infection starts to affect your chances of conceiving. Also, treatment during pregnancy is more difficult, and the presence of an STI can affect your baby and cause premature birth. Antibiotics are the most common form of treatment for STIs.
Chlamydia and gonorrhoea You might think that you would know if you had ever contracted an STI such as chlamydia or gonorrhoea but this is not necessarily the case. Chlamydia, for example, is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the UK, and is usually symptomless, particularly in women. Yet it is thought that 15 to 20 per cent of the sexually active population could have been infected. Furthermore, it is estimated that 10 to 40 per cent of women with untreated chlamydia go on to develop pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) – see right.
In women, if it is not treated early, the infection can spread to the fallopian tubes and cause blockage, which in turn can lead to infertility or an ectopic pregnancy.
In men, untreated chlamydia can cause damage to the sperm-carrying tubes and ducts in the testes and this can result in blockage and therefore infertility.
Gonorrhoea is highly contagious, and unprotected sex with an infected person transmits the infection in 90 per cent of cases. Twice as many men as women are infected. Like chlamydia, this bacterial infection is often
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