Can STDs Affect My Ability to Have Children? Yes.

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Question: Can STDs affect my ability to have children?

Answer: Yes. STDs can cause infertility.

Sexually transmitted diseases can affect your ability to have children. That's particularly true for women. Left untreated, even an asymptomatic STD can eventually lead to an episode of pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). PID is one of the leading causes of preventable infertility. Women with PID have scarring on their fallopian tubes and other reproductive organs.

This makes it difficult for sperm to reach an egg. It can also lead to an ectopic pregnancy. An ectopic pregnancy occurs when a fertilized egg doesn't get to the uterus before implanting.

STDs can also cause infertility in men. The process is similar to how PID damages a woman's fallopian tubes. The structures of the male reproductive tract, including the epididymis and urethra, can be damaged by infection with an untreated STDs. Immunodeficiency from HIV can also reduce semen quality in men. That makes it harder for them to get their partners pregnant.

STD-related infertility is less common in men than in women. However, that is partially due to the fact that STD infections in men are more likely to cause symptoms. They are therefore more likely to be treated.

The problem of unnoticed and untreated STDs causing extensive damage over time is one reason why STD screening is so important. Regular STD screening helps catch asymptomatic infections.

Otherwise, these infections can go unnoticed, and untreated, for years. Not only is this important in slowing the spread of the STD epidemic, it also can help preserve a person's ability to have children.

Which Are the STDs That Cause Infertility?

There are a number of STDs that can cause infertility.

The STDs most commonly associated with infertility include:

It is important to note that most people infected with these STDs will not become infertile. That is particularly true for those who are screened and treated appropriately. The STDs that cause infertility usually do so because of chronic, undetected infections.

Did you know?: A hysterosalpingogram is a picture of the uterus and fallopian tubes. Dye is injected through the cervix. Then the image is taken. This is used to detect any areas of the female reproductive tract that have blocked by scarring. If the dye can't get through, neither can a sperm or egg. This test is used to help diagnose infertility caused by PID and related processes. It can be quite uncomfortable.

Sources:

Gimenes F, Souza RP, Bento JC, Teixeira JJ, Maria-Engler SS, Bonini MG, Consolaro ME. Male infertility: a public health issue caused by sexually transmitted pathogens. Nat Rev Urol. 2014 Dec;11(12):672-87. doi: 10.1038/nrurol.2014.285.

Kidd S, Workowski KA. Management of Gonorrhea in Adolescents and Adults in the United States. Clin Infect Dis. 2015 Dec 15;61 Suppl 8:S785-801. doi: 10.1093/cid/civ731.

Manhart LE, Jensen JS, Bradshaw CS, Golden MR, Martin DH. Efficacy of Antimicrobial Therapy for Mycoplasma genitalium Infections. Clin Infect Dis. 2015 Dec 15;61 Suppl 8:S802-17. doi: 10.1093/cid/civ785.

Mårdh PA. Tubal factor infertility, with special regard to chlamydial salpingitis. Curr Opin Infect Dis. 2004 Feb;17(1):49-52.

Ochsendorf FR (2008) "Sexually transmitted infections: impact on male fertility." Andrologia. 2008 Apr;40(2):72-5.

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