STDs And Infertility – We Ask A Doctor If There’s A Link

    In our clinical practice, we often get people asking us if there is a link between sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and infertility. The answer is yes. Some sexually transmitted diseases such as gonorrhea and chlamydia can cause infertility.

    Sexually transmitted diseases are becoming more rampant. These diseases have long-term effects that could lead to infertility, especially in women. When you don’t treat some of these sexually transmitted diseases (even the diseases with no symptoms), they can affect your ability to give birth. The link between STDs and infertility is an important one to note, because STDs can typically lead to pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) and PID is one of the leading causes of infertility in women.

    STDs and Infertility In Women

    When a woman has pelvic inflammatory disease, there is scarring on their reproductive organs (fallopian tubes and uterus). The scarring makes it hard for sperm to get to the egg that has been released from the ovary. It can also cause an ectopic pregnancy. Ectopic pregnancy is when an already fertilized egg gets implanted outside the uterus. In this case, the fertilised egg is unable to get to the uterus for implantation. If fertilized eggs are left to grow and develop outside the uterus, it leads to further complications such as damage to the nearby organs and severe loss of blood. 

    STDs And Infertility In Men

    Men are not left risk free when it comes to sexually transmitted diseases. Just as with women, STDs can also cause infertility in men in a similar way. 

    When STDs are left untreated in men, it can cause damage to the male reproductive organs such as the urethra (tube for urine removal) and epididymis (tube that connects to the male reproductive system). Viral infections, as well as the immune deficiency caused by HIV, have been shown to reduce the quality of semen in men. When semen quality is reduced, it affects male fertility and makes it more difficult for a man to impregnate.. 

    While men are also prone to STD-related infertility, it is important to add that male cases of infertility are not as high as the female cases. This might be because men are more likely to experience symptoms of STDs infections, unlike their female counterparts who are usually asymptomatic. Since men show symptoms of STDs more, they are more likely to treat the issues earlier.

    Different Types Of STDs And Their Potential Impact On Fertility

    Studies have shown that even past sexual health statuses can play a significant role in fertility. While some sexually transmitted diseases directly affect a woman’s ability to give birth, others have an indirect impact on fertility and make it hard to sustain a pregnancy.

    For example HIV (human immunodeficiency viruses) which is considered an STD doesn’t affect fertility in women. However, it should be known that if HIV is not treated, it could progress to AIDS which can, in turn, lead to poor health,  and serious damage to body organs which makes it harder to sustain a pregnancy.

    Here are some STDs that can lead to infertility:

    • Chlamydia – Chlamydia is a common STD estimated to affect up to three million people every year. Chlamydia is a bacterial infection which can be treated earlier with antibiotics

    Chlamydia usually manifests itself  asymptomatically, which makes it even more dangerous. This means that it is more likely not to be detected early and since it is one of the major causes of PID, it can further lead to fertility issues.

    • Gonorrhea – Just like chlamydia, gonorrhea is a bacteria treatable with the use of antibiotics (even though some of the strains have become more resistant to antibiotics). Gonorrhea is also asymptomatic and can lead to PID in women. It can as well be passed on to a new baby during birth causing the baby to develop gonococcal conjunctivitis (pink eye). If not treated, it can cause blindness.

    Gonorrhea infection in men can cause epididymitis. Epididymitis is the inflammation of the tube near the sperm ducts called the epididymis). When untreated, this can cause fertility issues in men.

    • Syphilis – Syphilis is a severe bacterial infection that is sexually transmitted. When detected early, syphilis can be treated with medications like penicillin. However, if undetected and it gets to the later stages, it can lead to infertility in both men and women.The late stages of syphilis can cause severe damage to body organs as well as nerves, thus affecting body systems, including the reproductive system. 

    Similar to gonorrhea, syphilis can also be transmitted easily to a baby (at any stage of the pregnancy). It can also be transmitted during childbirth. When untreated, it can lead to neonatal mortality.


    Since we now know that there is a potential link between STDs and infertility, we have more reasons to run tests and screenings for STDs.  Getting regularly checked up especially if you are sexually active is an extremely important step for adults. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended that all sexually active women should be screened every year for STDs, particularly chlamydia and gonorrhea. Couples should get tested and treated as one partner can infect another. 


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