December 11, 2022
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Can chlamydia cause female infertility?

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Chlamydia is one of the most common bacterial sexually transmitted infections (STIs), with nearly 44,000 people in the Netherlands diagnosed with the infection in 2021 (RIVM, 2022). Chlamydia often causes little to no symptoms, making it hard to know if you are infected. This is why some people can have an infection for years without knowing it. Although chlamydia is easily cured with antibiotics, a long-term infection can cause pelvic inflammatory disease and affect infertility in both men and women. Continue reading to learn more about the potential health effects of an untreated chlamydia infection in women. Would you like to check if you have chlamydia? Consider a home chlamydia test.

What are the long-term effects of chlamydia in women?

Chlamydia is an infection caused by the bacteria chlamydia trachomatis and is transmitted through vaginal, anal, or oral sex. Because chlamydia often has no symptoms, some people have the infection for months or years before detecting it. Untreated chlamydia can cause permanent damage to the reproductive system (RIVM, 2022). A long-term chlamydia infection can spread to the reproductive tract, causing pelvic inflammatory disease, infertility, or an increased risk of ectopic pregnancy. As chlamydia can often be a silent infection with long term health effects, it is important to keep a close eye on your sexual health and get tested regularly.

Can chlamydia cause infertility in women?

If chlamydia is treated promptly with the right antibiotics it will likely cause no long term health effects. However, an untreated infection can damage the reproductive system and lead to infertility. 

What is Pelvic Inflammatory Disease?

Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is an infection of the female reproductive organs, including the uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries. PID occurs when bacteria spreads to the reproductive tract, often from the vagina. This can be caused by STIs, childbirth, menstruation, miscarriage, or any medical procedure where instruments are inserted into the uterus (Mayo Clinic, 2022). In severe cases, the infection and inflammation can spread throughout the reproductive organs, damaging the surrounding tissues. It is estimated 10-15% of women with untreated chlamydia will develop PID (CDC, 2022).

Inflammation from PID can block the fallopian tubes, making it impossible for an egg to pass through (NHS, 2022). It can also cause scar tissue to form around the fallopian tubes, making it difficult for the tube to “pick up” the egg during ovulation. These complications from PID increase the risk of infertility or an ectopic pregnancy (a pregnancy growing outside the uterus). PID can cause symptoms similar to chlamydia or other STIs. These symptoms include:

  • Pain in your lower abdomen
  • Fever
  • Pain during sex or when you urinate
  • Bleeding in between periods
  • Unusual vaginal discharge or odour

Source: Soa Aids Nederland, 2022

 If you have any of these symptoms, it is a good idea to get tested for STIs.

What are the chances of chlamydia causing infertility?

Fortunately, the likelihood of developing infertility from a chlamydia infection is low. In the Netherlands, the risk of infertility due to a chlamydia infection is estimated as less than 1% (Soa Aids Netherlands, 2022). This risk increases the more times you have chlamydia or the longer it is left untreated. If you have been treated for chlamydia before, it is wise to take another test a few months after your treatment to make sure that you have not contracted it again. Furthermore, if you regularly change sex partners or engage in sex without a condom or barrier device, it is advised to get tested regularly. 

What other STIs can cause infertility in women?

Both chlamydia and gonorrhea can cause pelvic inflammatory disease, which can lead to infertility. Would you like to check for both of these STIs? Homed-IQ’s Chlamydia and Gonorrhea Test is a laboratory-certified STI test you can take from home.

How do you know if you are infertile?

There are no specific tests that can check whether you are infertile due to chlamydia (Soa Aids Netherlands, 2022). However, if you have had chlamydia before and are unable to conceive, speak to your doctor. Most importantly, remember that most women who have had chlamydia still easily get pregnant.

Chlamydia symptoms in women

If you regularly have unprotected sex or have multiple/changing sex partners, it is wise get tested for STIs regularly, even if you don’t have any symptoms. As only approximately 1 in 10 women with chlamydia have symptoms, getting tested is the most reliable way to know if you are infected or not  (Thuisarts.nl, 2022). If symptoms occur, they usually include:

  • Pain or burning sensation when urinating or during intercourse
  • Increased vaginal discharge
  • Pain in the lower abdomen
  • Bleeding in between periods or after intercourse

Homed-IQ’s Chlamydia Tests are certified laboratory tests that you can easily and anonymously use from home. If you are at risk of infection, have symptoms that could indicate chlamydia, or haven’t been tested in a while, a home chlamydia test can give you clarity and peace of mind.

Myths about chlamydia

There are many myths and misconceptions about chlamydia. Common myths are:

  • You can contract chlamydia by sharing food or drink with an infected partner.
  • You can get chlamydia from kissing an infected partner.
  • You can contract chlamydia through a public toilet or swimming pool.

It is important to know the facts about sexual health in order to stay healthy. If you regularly have unprotected sex or have multiple partners, the risk of chlamydia or other STIs is greater. That is why regular testing is recommended to stay healthy and safe. Click here to view Homed-IQ’s complete portfolio of sexual health tests.

References:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020). Infertility & STDs – STD Information from CDC. https://www.cdc.gov/std/infertility/default.htm

NHS website. (2022, February 11). Complications. nhs.uk. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pelvic-inflammatory-disease-pid/complications/

Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) – Symptoms and causes. (2022, April 30). Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/pelvic-inflammatory-disease/symptoms-causes/syc-20352594

Soa Aids Nederland. (2022, 16 mei). Word je door chlamydia onvruchtbaar? https://www.soaaids.nl/nl/alle-soas/chlamydia/word-je-door-chlamydia-onvruchtbaar

Chlamydia | RIVM. (n.d.). https://www.rivm.nl/chlamydia-trachomatis

Gonorroe – UMC Utrecht. (n.d.). https://www.umcutrecht.nl/nl/ziekte/gonorroe

Ik heb chlamydia | Thuisarts.nl. (2022, 6 oktober). Thuisarts.nl. https://www.thuisarts.nl/chlamydia/ik-heb-chlamydia

PID (pelvic inflammatory disease). (n.d.). Rijnstate. https://www.rijnstate.nl/aandoening-en-behandeling/pid-pelvic-inflammatory-disease/

About the author

Lauren Dobischok

Lauren is a health scientist and science communicator living in the Netherlands. With a background in epidemiology, her goal is to create accurate scientific content that is easy to understand and empowers people to make informed decisions. Her favourite topics to discuss are public health, infectious diseases, and dispelling myths and misconceptions about health topics with research. Coming from Canada, Lauren prefers to spend her free time learning Dutch and exploring the interesting sights this small country has to offer!