The Link Between STDs and Fertility

Infertility is technically defined as being unable to conceive after 12 months, and it’s a painful problem for couples. In the United States, approximately 11% of women and 9% of men suffer with infertility

There are treatments that can lead to successful conception and birth, including discovering and solving gynecological conditions that hinder conception in women, such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PID) or endometriosis. Low sperm production or motility in men are linked to the problem, too. Fertility drugs and in vitro fertilization (IVF) are also available. 

Some causes of infertility might surprise you, and one is the role that sexually transmitted diseases play in your ability to conceive.

Dr. Kevin Hooker has helped many couples struggling with infertility, and he leaves no stone unturned when it comes to evaluating you thoroughly and creating a customized treatment plan to further your goal of bringing a baby into this world. 

Surprising infertility facts

About one-third of infertility problems are attributed to women, another third to men, and the final third includes a mixture of causes in women and men, including advancing age. Sadly, some couples never learn the cause of their infertility — it remains a mystery. 

In addition to being unable to conceive, stillbirths and miscarriages fall under the category of infertility-related problems as well, and these are devastating losses. 

Infertility and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)

Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are contributors to infertility that Dr. Hooker explain to his patients routinely. The ones linked to infertility include:

1. Chlamydia

We know with certainty that the bacterial infection chlamydia can potentially cause serious, irreversible harm to a woman’s reproductive system, though both men and women can get the disease. Women might experience symptoms like a burning sensation when they urinate or vaginal discharge, but more often chlamydia is asymptomatic. 

It harms women by causing significant fallopian tube inflammation and scarring, which obstructs eggs from reaching the uterus successfully so they can be fertilized. 

This is one of the STDs that also causes pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), which scars the fallopian tubes and other reproductive organs. The scarring then impedes the sperm from reaching a woman’s egg or can even lead to a dangerous ectopic pregnancy, when a fertilized egg implants improperly before reaching the uterus. 

Fortunately, chlamydia can be treated with antibiotics, but because chlamydia isn’t often accompanied by overt symptoms, it’s important to get tested regularly and practice safe sex. 

2. Gonorrhea 

Like chlamydia, gonorrhea is a bacterial infection that causes both PID and tubal inflammation. It can infect the rectum and throat in addition to the genitals. In men, gonorrhea causes swelling of the tube where the sperm ducts are in the testicles, lowering fertility. 

Symptoms of gonorrhea for women include discharge, pelvic pain, bleeding between periods, and painful urination, while men’s symptoms include painful urination as well, penile discharge, and testicular swelling. Gonorrhea is also treatable with antibiotics.

3. Herpes

Though not much is known about how herpes may affect men’s fertility, some research points to the fact that the infection leads to reduced sperm count and makes it more difficult for a man to produce sperm. Herpes has also been found inside sperm cells, though this issue hasn’t been definitively associated with infertility yet. 

No association between women with herpes and infertility has been discovered.

Symptoms include itching and tenderness in the genital area, red and white bumps on the skin, ulcers, and scabs on the vaginal area and cervix for women, and on the penis and scrotum for men. In both women and men, the same things can occur on the urethra, thighs, anus, and mouth.  

4. Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)

HIV assaults the immune system and is treatable, but not curable. It must be treated as soon as possible to avoid the transition to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). There are multiple comorbidities (co-existing conditions) typically seen with HIV, including PID.  

Both the virus itself and the comorbidities can affect fertility in men and women — it can compromise sperm health and HIV can make fertility treatment and pregnancy and birth harder. The virus is in semen, so artificial insemination is more difficult, but there are fertility treatments designed specifically for those with HIV. 

5. Mycoplasma genitalium (MG)

This bacterial sexually transmitted infection causes bleeding in the skin around the vagina, burning sensation when urinating, and vaginal itching in women, and urethral discharge and symptoms of arthritis in men.

MG can be mistaken for chlamydia, but testing and antibiotics are the recommended treatment. Left untreated, it causes women to become infertile. 

Though all of these STDs are linked to fertility problems, most are curable and all are treatable. Screening is vital in order to get prompt treatment.

Call the Lake Havasu OB/GYN Care office to schedule testing and discuss your fertility issues, or use our online booking tool

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