STDs, or sexually transmitted diseases, can cause long-term effects that may lead to infertility. Let’s learn the facts:

  • About 75% of men and women who are sexually active will be diagnosed with an SRD at some point in their lives.
  • Millions of STD cases are diagnosed every year in the United States, more commonly in men and women between 15 and 24 years old.
  • About 25% of teenagers who are sexually active contract at least 1 sexually transmitted infection.

Anyone who is sexually active, men and women alike, are at risk for sexually transmitted diseases.

How do I get a STD?

STDs are transmitted through unprotected sex, which may include vaginal, anal or oral intercourse.  These infections also spread through sharing IV needles, breastfeeding, or giving birth.  If not properly treated, an STD could lead to potential infertility issues.

Types of STDs
The most common sexually transmitted diseases that affect fertility are listed below:

  1. Chlamydia
  2. Gonorrhea
  3. Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
  4. Syphilis
  5. Human papillomavirus (HPV)

There is still much research to be done about how exactly these infections cause infertility.  For example, women who have HIV have been known to have cervical abnormalities.  These infections often do not cause symptoms and sometimes go years before being diagnosed.  STDs can also affect male infertility. Chlamydia, when left untreated, may spread to the testicles from the urethra, causing permanent sterility and disability.

Pelvic Inflammatory Disease and Infertility
Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is a common STD that affects fertility.  It often goes unnoticed due to its lack of symptoms.  PID may cause pelvic, ovarian, and or/fallopian tube damage, and is usually results from vaginal intercourse with an infected partner who may have chlamydia or gonorrhea.  Many chlamydia and gonorrhea cases left untreated can lead to PID.  In the United States alone, more than 100,000 women each year suffer from infertility due to PID, and more than 1,000,000 cases of PID are reported each year.

HPV: Human Papillomavirus
Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections in the United States.  HPV is well-known to cause cervical cancer, which is the second largest cancer diagnosed in women across the world. Almost 25 million women worldwide have HPV, with nearly half of the cases being in women ages 20-24 years old.  Approximately 14,000 women in the United States are diagnosed with HPV every year.  Of the 14,000 cases, 12,000 will contract into cervical cancer, causing close to 4,000 deaths.  HPV is sometimes linked to infertility due to the treatment regiments, like chemotherapy or a hysterectomy that may negatively impact one’s chances of becoming pregnant. Human Papillomavirus is so common that some scientists compare it to the “common cold”.   There have been recent studies, and many doctor recommendations, that those between the ages of 9 and 26 years old should consider the vaccination to help prevent this disease.

Preventing STDs and Infertility
Avoid STDs whenever possible. You may be saving your fertility for the future. Here’s a few tips:

  • Always have protected sex with a condom to reduce the risk of contracting an STD.
  • Be aware of your surroundings and seek help if you’re experiencing any symptoms of STDs.
  • Get tested at your annual OB-GYN exam and seek professional help when needed.

It is important to educate yourself on sexually transmitted diseases and how to avoid any future risks. If you are sexually active, be aware of what sexual behavoir can contribute to an infection.  By improving our overall health, we’re improving our reproductive health and preventing infertility due to any of these diseases.