It’s important to regularly test for chlamydia, gonorrhea, herpes and other common STDs and seek treatment if you get a positive diagnosis.
This is because untreated STDs can affect your ability to have children in the future.
A majority of STDs don’t have any symptoms during the initial infection period. So many infected people carry on without realizing they have an STD.
This gives the STD a chance to take hold and cause infections in reproductive organs such as the fallopian tube and urethra.
This makes it hard for fertilization to take place. And even if it does, it can prevent a successful pregnancy.
So yes, STDs can and do cause fertility and impotence. Of course not all STDs lead to infertility and some are worse for your reproductive health than others.
Let’s look at individual sexually transmitted infections and their impact on fertility.
Chlamydia is a major cause of Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID), which can lead to infertility.
PID gradually damages reproductive organs, making it impossible to conceive or carry a successful pregnancy to term.
According to the CDC, 10-15% of women with untreated chlamydia develop PID.
Chlamydia can also lead to what is known as tubal infertility. This occurs when the fallopian tubes become inflamed and the ovum cannot descend to the uterus.
Regular chlamydia tests are essential in catching the infection early. You can get tested at the doctor’s office, in a clinic or by ordering an online test or an at-home test kit.
Being a bacterial STD, it is easily treatable.
Gonorrhea is another major cause of PID. It affects female reproductive organs much the same way as Chlamydia.
About 10-20% of PID cases in the United States arise from untreated gonorrhea infections.
So it’s important to get regular screening and seek early treatment if you test positive.
Combined, gonorrhea and chlamydia are the most common causes of infertility in women.
This is partly because they are major causes of PID and partly because people don’t seek treatment soon enough.
Most clinics test these two STDs together. Online STD testing services and at-home test kits also bundle the two tests in one package.
It is not clear how these STDs affect male fertility though some studies indicate that they can lead to reduced sperm count and quality.
Most strains of herpes have not been shown to cause infertility.
However, a study found that one specific strain, HHV-6A, might be behind unexplained infertility in some women.
In men, herpes has been associated with reduced sperm count and quality.
Researchers are yet to find a direct connection between HIV and infertility though as with other STDs, it might reduce sperm quality in men.
It is usually the resulting health complications that can affect fertility. HIV can change the ovulatory cycle, making it harder to get pregnant.
It can also reduce the effectiveness of fertility treatments for women trying to get pregnant.
Other factors like stress, weight loss, overall poor health and reduced desire for sex can also lower fertility for individuals with HIV
Mycoplasma genitalium was not discovered until the 1980s.
As researchers learn more about the STD, they’ve discovered that it might be more common than even gonorrhea and chlamydia in certain populations.
They’ve also discovered that it is an increasingly common cause of PID, the infertility-causing infection we discussed before.
This little-known STD may be behind PID in women who have not been diagnosed with either chlamydia or gonorrhea.
Studies suggest that Mycoplasma may also affect male fertility.
Why STD-Caused Infertility is More Common in Women
You may have noticed that most of these STDs affect women’s fertility more than men’s.
It could be that women’s reproductive organs are more prone to infection. But some experts say that the likely reason is that men seek treatment sooner than women.
Men will quickly notice any unusual discharges and rashes and get tested while many women tend to ignore such symptoms or confuse them with other health conditions like UTI.
That’s why regular screening is essential for both men and women. You are more likely to catch an STD in its early stages when treatment is easy.
On average, you should get a full panel STD test at least once a year. Do it more often if you engage in high-risk sexual activities.
You can go to a clinic or order an anonymous test online.