Many common STDs can be treated. Because of this they are often thought of as just a temporary nuisance. However, delayed treatment or repeated infections can lead to long term problems, such as infertility.
Pelvic Inflammatory Disease
Chlamydia and gonorrhea are two of the most common STDs in the United States. Both can be treated with antibiotics. However, when they are left untreated or happen often, they can lead to Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) in women.
PID is a serious infection that can lead to scarring of organs in the pelvis. It may make it hard for sperm to reach the egg or for fertilized egg to implant in the uterus. This can cause infertility. Not all damage caused by PID can be reversed.
Chlamydia and gonorrhea can also lead to scarring in men. The infections can cause inflammation in tubes that store and deliver sperm. Long term or frequent inflammation causes scarring of these tubes. Each testes has its own tube. If both testes are affected, it can lead to infertility.
The Link between HPV, Cervical Cancer, and Infertility
Human papillomavirus (HPV) is another common STD. It can cause changes in women that lead to cervical cancer. The first step is a growth of abnormal cells. Treatment to remove these cells and cancer treatments can both damage fertility. For example, the uterus may need to be removed to treat cancer.
If you suspect you may have an STD, get medical care right away. You will also need to let your sexual partners know so they can be treated as well.
To reduce your chance of getting an STD that puts your fertility at risk:
- Always use a latex condom during sex.
- Woman under the age of 25 who are sexually active should have routine check-ups for STDs. Sexually active young men should also consider screening.
- Have check-ups more often if you have other risk factors for getting STDs.
- Aim for a steady relationship with only 1 sexual partner.
- Talk to your doctor about whether the HPV vaccine is right for you. It is most often given between the ages of 11 to 12 years but can be given to others.
- Get regular Pap tests to screen for cervical cancer. HPV can also be screened by testing the same sample of cells.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada
Acute epididymitis. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:https://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114552/Acute-epididymitis. Updated October 6, 2017. Accessed October 17, 2018.
Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:https://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114793/Pelvic-inflammatory-disease-PID. Updated April 15, 2016. Accessed October 17, 2018.
Infertility in men. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:https://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T902812/Infertility-in-men. Updated February 26, 2016. Accessed October 17, 2018.
Infertility in women. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:https://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116334/Infertility-in-women. Updated July 12, 2016. Accessed October 17, 2018.
STDs and infertility. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at:https://www.cdc.gov/std/infertility/default.htm. Updated October 6, 2017. Accessed October 17, 2018.
Last reviewed January 2019 by EBSCO Medical Review BoardMichael Woods, MD, FAAP Last Updated: 3/15/2019