These are the main two STIs that can cause infertility in women
STIs are fairly nasty - but did you know that they can cause harm to your fertility?
As well as making things a bit manky down there, an untreated sexually transmitted infection can mean a woman will struggle to have kids years after she catches it.
There are two in particular that we should be wary of, says Dr Caitriona Henchion, Medical Director of the Irish Family Planning Agency (IFPA).
“The main two that will cause damage to fertility are chlamydia and gonorrhoea,” she tells us.
“There are some less common ones but they are the main two and the main things we would test most frequently.”
"The only way to know is to get checked."
Symptoms of both gonorrhoea and chlamydia in women can include unusual discharge from the vagina, burning while peeing, needing to pee often, heavier periods or spotting, a sore throat, pain during sex, stomach pains and fever.
Heartbreakingly though, it’s sometimes the case that women have an infection that has harmed their fertility but they don’t find out until they try for a baby.
“Quite often there are no symptoms. People don’t know they have them,” Dr Henchion continues.
“That would be the case especially with women more so than in men.
“The only way to know is to get checked.
“It’s a very simple test. In most cases now, we can send the girl to do her own test.
"She goes off to the bathroom with a little kit and takes a self-taken low vaginal swab and that is very accurate for chlamydia and gonorrhoea.”
Of course, finding out that you have an STI isn’t the end of the world and doesn’t have to spell infertility.
Both chlamydia and gonorrhoea are fairly easy to treat.
“With chlamydia it’s just a week with an oral antibiotic; with gonorrhoea you do have to get an injection and an oral antibiotic but it’s still very successful and you’re now preventing something that would have gone on to cause you problems later (with fertility).”
"People have a lot of misinformation."
But how common are STIs?
The rates go up every year, according to Dr Henchion, but this doesn’t mean we’re living through an epidemic.
We are more proactive about our sexual health now than ever before, which means more screenings and therefore more STIs caught. New technology also means more accurate diagnoses from doctors.
Still, our sexual practices do play a role.
“I think sometimes even though people may know a lot in one sense, they might have a lot of misinformation,” Dr Henchion says.
“I mean, a lot of people don’t realise that oral sex can pass STIs.
“They will have oral sex as a way of not getting pregnant and not getting infections and are then quite shocked to find that actually you can get infections that way.”
This October is Fertility Month on Her, when we’ll be talking all things reproductive health and having babies.
You can check out all of our Fertility Month articles here.
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