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Chlamydia and Infertility

Chlamydia is a sexually transmitted disease caused by the bacteria Chlamydia Trachomatis. With an estimated 141 million cases occurring worldwide in 2013 alone, this disease is one of the most common and prevalent in the world today [1]. While long-term effects such as blindness and arthritis are potential dangers, it is also important to understand the relationship between chlamydia and infertility.

How does Chlamydia Cause Infertility?

In women, chlamydia is known to impact the health of the neck of the womb. It should also be noted that such a condition is not caused by vaginal sex alone. It can just as easily be passed along through oral or anal sex. Half of these women will progress to become infected with what is known as pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). Some of the symptoms associated with this condition include [2]:

  • Pain and tenderness in the lower abdominal region
  • Yellow or green vaginal discharge
  • Nausea, fever and/or vomiting
  • Painful or frequent urination

These symptoms are not mutually exclusive and they will often occur in conjunction with one another. However, of even greater concern is that up to 70 per cent of all women are asymptomatic [3]. In turn, the fallopian tubes themselves can become infected. This can result in severe difficulty becoming pregnant and cause complete infertility.

Other Infertility Risk Factors

Notwithstanding the potential issues with the womb and the fallopian tubes, chlamydia and infertility share another relationship. The most common is how the disease manifests itself in men. A urethral infection can (at times) spread to the testicles. This may cause a condition known as epididymitis, if this is not treated promptly, sterility may occur. Still, additional variables that may affect female fertility can include age, the level of one’s immune system and a history of previous sexually transmitted diseases.

Chlamydia and Female Fertility

Often referred to as the “silent epidemic” amongst women, chlamydia is particularly dangerous due to the lack of symptoms in the majority of cases. It is therefore important that any female who is under the age of 25 or who is otherwise sexually active undergo screenings should she change partners [4]. Although the best way to eliminate the risk of infection is through abstinence, utilising contraceptives has been shown to help prevent chlamydia.

Can Chlamydia Cause Ectopic Pregnancy?

Cases in which a foetus develops outside of the womb (particularly in the fallopian tubes) are known as ectopic pregnancies. Such conditions are concerns for many women and recent studies suggest a connection between chlamydia and ectopic pregnancies. The inflammation, injuries and scarring that can occur within the fallopian tubes may cause the foetus to become lodged within. There is also evidence that points to the role of the surrounding epithelial cells which line the interior walls of the tubes. As these are the primary targets of the chlamydia infection, it is thought that this layer in particular can cause an ectopic pregnancy [5].

Symptoms of Ectopic Pregnancy

There are three common symptoms associated with an ectopic pregnancy (5). These are (in no order of importance):

  • A sudden lack of menstrual periods (known clinically as amenorrhoea)
  • Dull pain occurring in the lower to middle abdomen
  • Vaginal bleeding (not normally associated with one’s normal menstrual cycle)

These types of pregnancies are thought to comprise between 1 and 2 per cent of all pregnancies. Once again, we should point out that as many as 50 per cent of all females may show no symptoms at all. When this condition is suspected, doctors will normally perform a pelvic ultrasound in conjunction with blood-based hormonal tests.

These are some of the basic ways in which an ectopic pregnancy can be associated with the chlamydia trachomatis bacteria. As the signs and symptoms may not appear in all cases, women who suspect that they may have been with an infected partner should be tested for chlamydia as soon as possible. We offer a discreet test kit which will give you the result in a matter of days.

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Sources:

  1. Global Burden of Disease Study 2013, Collaborators (22 August 2015). “Global, regional, and national incidence, prevalence, and years lived with disability for 301 acute and chronic diseases and injuries in 188 countries, 1990-2013: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2013.”. Lancet (London, England) 386 (9995): 743–800.
  2. http://www.webmd.com/women/guide/sexual-health-your-guide-to-pelvic-inflammatory-disease
  3. http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/Chlamydia/Pages/Introduction.aspx
  4. Meyers D, Wolff T, Gregory K.; et al. (2008). “USPSTF Recommendations for STI Screening”. Am Fam Physician 77 (6): 819–824
  5. http://www.ectopic.org.uk/professionals/factors-increasing-risk-of-ectopic-pregnancy/
  6. http://www.medicinenet.com/ectopic_pregnancy/article.htm

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