Does Chlamydia Cause Infertility?

Chlamydia affects many men and women at some point in their lives and it is very common amongst young people. It is a sexually transmitted disease which can easily be treated with antibiotics. However, it often remains symptomless and if left untreated, it can have serious long-term effects for both men and women.

Which Long-term Effects Can Chlamydia Have in Women?

Chlamydia can have a range of long-term effects in both men and women.

In women, the infection can cause:

  • cervicitis (an inflammation of the cervix)
  • ectopic pregnancy (when an embryo develops outside the womb)
  • pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
  • infertility
  • blockage of the bartholin glands (which lubricate the vagina)

In men, chlamydia can cause:

  • epididymitis (inflammation of the epididymis, the tube which carries your sperm)
  • infertility

Chlamydia of the anus can cause complications in both sexes, as it can cause an inflammation of the mucus membrane of the anus. This can lead to symptoms such as pain, discharge or cramping or diarrhoea.

The presence of chlamydia bacteria also increases your risk of catching other sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV.

What if Chlamydia is Untreated for Several Years?

There is no particular time span within which you are likely to experience complications due to chlamydia. It is possible to carry the bacteria for several years without suffering any long-term effects. Every patient is different and it is difficult to predict whether an existing infection has caused any complications if you have not noticed any chlamydia symptoms.

The longer the STI remains untreated, the higher the risk of complications and permanent damage such as infertility.

Does Chlamydia Make Men and Women Infertile?

It is estimated that 10% - 40% of women who catch chlamydia develop pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) as a result. PID can affect the womb, ovaries or the fallopian tubes. If the inflammation persists over a long period of time, it can cause scarring and block the fallopian tubes. If your fallopian tubes are blocked, sperm won’t get to an egg, which means that you can become infertile. This means, that chlamydia can cause infertility if it causes PID.

It is not known how common it is for women to become infertile following a chlamydia infection but some scientists estimate that chlamydia is responsible for as many as one in five cases of infertility in women.

However, chlamydia does not only affect female fertility, it can also take a toll on male fertility. It can lead to a lower sperm count and have a negative impact on the quality of the sperm. It also increases your risk of an inflammation called epididymitis (which affects the tube that carries sperm), which can lead to scarring and result in infertility.

How Long Does it Take for Chlamydia to Make You Infertile?

How long it takes for chlamydia to cause permanent damage to your reproductive system is not known. Whether it affects your fertility depends on whether the infection spreads. The general rule is: The quicker you treat it, the better.

However, the fact that you have had chlamydia for several years does not necessarily mean that you are infertile. Many people carry the bacteria for a long time without suffering consequences.

Can You Die From Chlamydia?

Chlamydia is not life threatening and it does not have any permanent impact on your health if it is treated soon after you have been infected.

Babies who contract chlamydia during childbirth can develop dangerous complications, such as pneumonia. In the UK, all mothers to be are offered a free chlamydia test at the beginning of their pregnancy to make sure that the baby won’t be exposed to chlamydia bacteria.

How to avoid complications

Although chlamydia can cause serious complications in some people, it is also a very treatable infection. You can avoid catching it or leaving it untreated by following these three simple steps:

1. Always use a condom when having sex with a new partner.

2. Make sure you and your partner get tested before having sex for the first time.

3. Get tested for STIs once a year.

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