Do You Have A Reproductive Tract Infection?
A reproductive tract infection (RTI) is a bacterial or viral infection of the genital tract. RTIs are a common occurrence in women, though men are susceptible to infections. Most are preventable and treatable, but some leave unwanted side effects. One of the most distressing possible results of an RTI is infertility, affecting 10% of American women. Identifying and treating infections can significantly improve the chances of getting pregnant.
STDs and infertility
STDs are more likely to cause complications with pregnancies and infertility. Every year, there are well over 20 million cases of sexually transmitted infections, with more than half of those among young people. Sexual intercourse with an infected partner causes STDs. However, most of these viruses can lay dormant in the reproductive tract. When left undiscovered and untreated, women, in particular, are at a tremendous risk of Pelvic Inflammatory Disease. PID can cause scarring to the fallopian tubes, which can prevent a natural pregnancy.
Some diseases can impact fertility
Several sexually transmitted organisms can lead to different diseases. These can range from herpes to HIV with some specifically impacting fertility. Chlamydia and gonorrhea are the most common STDs that can lead to infertility. Both can lay dormant for months or years, then move up to the upper reproductive tract. Human papillomavirus (HPV) is another STD that can affect fertility. Some may show symptoms like mild abdominal pain, pain before menstruation, and painful sex. However, these symptoms could also be a sign of a more serious condition.
How PID impacts your fertility
Most cases of PID are sexually transmitted. However, some can happen after installing an IUD, after medical exams, or douching. The sexually transmitted virus moves to the fallopian tubes and even other organs. Women can have multiple episodes of PID, further damaging the fallopian tubes. At this point, having a natural pregnancy is near impossible. PID also increases the chances of ectopic pregnancy, where the embryo develops outside of the uterus.
Can you save your fertility?
With reproductive tract infections caused by STDs, prevention is the best defense. Women and men should be tested yearly for sexually transmitted infections. These checks are vital for people with multiple sexual partners or unprotected sex. If a doctor detects a sexually transmitted disease, antibiotics and other medications can clear up the infection. However, if the condition has matured to PID, further treatment is required. A doctor will perform surgery to clear up any scarring. Unfortunately, these treatments may not be enough to prevent infertility.
Turning to IVF
A doctor or fertility specialist will suggest in vitro fertilization (IVF) for severe cases of PID. IVF bypasses the fallopian tubes by first surgically extracting eggs from the woman’s ovaries. The eggs are then combined with a sperm sample to create embryos. A healthy mature embryo is then transferred to the uterus and monitored for pregnancy. IVF is a viable reproductive treatment with a 27% success rate. Some fertility specialists also suggest egg freezing for future use.
STDs aren’t the end of fertility
Reproductive tract infections caused by STDs can cause a range of long-term problems. One specific side effect is infertility caused by PID. PID can cause extensive damage to a woman’s fallopian tubes and can even be life-threatening. Early detection is key to preventing infertility. Look for symptoms of RTIs and speak with a doctor immediately.