What Sexually Transmitted Diseases Can Increase Risk of Infertility?

Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are a significant public health concern, affecting millions of individuals worldwide. Beyond the immediate health implications, STDs can have long-lasting effects on reproductive health, potentially leading to infertility. At the Fertility Institute of San Diego, under the leadership of Dr. Minoos Hosseinzadeh, we are committed to educating our patients about the various factors that can impact fertility, including the role of STDs.

Understanding the Link Between STDs and Infertility

Infertility is a complex condition that can be caused by various factors, including infections. STDs can lead to infertility through several mechanisms, such as causing inflammation and damage to the reproductive organs, leading to scarring and blockages that can prevent the sperm and egg from meeting. Let’s delve into the specific STDs that can increase the risk of infertility.

Chlamydia and Gonorrhea

Chlamydia and gonorrhea are two of the most common STDs, and they are significant contributors to infertility, particularly in women. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), untreated chlamydia and gonorrhea can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), a serious infection of the female reproductive organs. PID can cause permanent damage to the fallopian tubes, uterus, and surrounding tissues, leading to infertility.

Chlamydia: Often asymptomatic, chlamydia can silently cause damage to the reproductive system. It is estimated that up to 10-15% of women with untreated chlamydia will develop PID, and among those, 20% may become infertile.
Gonorrhea: Similar to chlamydia, gonorrhea can also lead to PID if left untreated. The inflammation and scarring from PID can block the fallopian tubes, making it difficult for the egg and sperm to meet.

Human Papillomavirus (HPV)

Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted infection globally. While most HPV infections resolve on their own, certain strains can cause cervical dysplasia and cancer. Treatment for cervical cancer, including surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy, can severely impact a woman’s fertility.

HPV and Infertility: HPV itself does not directly cause infertility, but the treatments for HPV-related conditions can. For example, surgical procedures like conization (removal of a cone-shaped piece of the cervix) can reduce a woman’s ability to conceive and carry a pregnancy to term.

Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV)

● Herpes simplex virus (HSV) is a common STD that causes genital herpes. While HSV is not directly linked to infertility, the stress and stigma associated with recurrent outbreaks can impact a person’s sexual health and overall well-being.
● HSV and Pregnancy: Pregnant women with HSV need to be cautious, as the virus can be transmitted to the baby during childbirth, leading to severe complications. Therefore, managing HSV during pregnancy is crucial for a healthy reproductive outcome.

Syphilis

Syphilis is a bacterial infection that can have severe health consequences if not treated promptly. It progresses through stages, and if left untreated, it can cause damage to the heart, brain, and other organs. In pregnant women, syphilis can lead to congenital syphilis, causing severe complications for the baby.

Syphilis and Infertility: Although syphilis itself does not directly cause infertility, the systemic effects of untreated syphilis can lead to complications that may impact reproductive health.

Trichomoniasis

Trichomoniasis is a common STD caused by a parasite. It can cause symptoms such as itching, burning, and unusual discharge in both men and women. While trichomoniasis is treatable, it can increase the risk of other STDs, including HIV.

Trichomoniasis and Infertility: Untreated trichomoniasis can lead to inflammation and infection of the reproductive organs, potentially contributing to infertility.

Preventing and Managing STDs to Protect Fertility
Preventing STDs is crucial for protecting your fertility. Here are some steps you can take:

Regular Screening: Regular screening for STDs is essential, especially for sexually active individuals. Early detection and treatment can prevent the progression of the infection and reduce the risk of complications.
Safe Sexual Practices: Using condoms and practicing safe sex can significantly reduce the risk of contracting STDs. Mutual monogamy and open communication with your partner about sexual health are also important.
Vaccination: Vaccines are available for certain STDs, such as HPV. Getting vaccinated can protect you from the strains of HPV most commonly associated with cervical cancer and other complications.
Prompt Treatment: If you test positive for an STD, prompt treatment is essential. Follow your healthcare provider’s recommendations and complete the entire course of prescribed medication.

Understanding the impact of STDs on fertility is crucial for anyone planning to start a family. By taking proactive steps to prevent and manage STDs, you can protect your reproductive health and increase your chances of conception. At the Fertility Institute of San Diego, we are here to support you on your fertility journey.

If you’re ready to start your fertility journey, please book a complimentary virtual consultation with Dr. Hosseinzadeh, to go over fertility options or any other reproductive healthcare questions, click here.

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