Could a STD cause infertility?

Midwest Fertility Center- doctor, couple

The short answer is yes. Maybe you were a little “wild” in your youth, but a sexually transmitted disease can very well be the reason you can not get pregnant. Left untreated a STD can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease or PID. PID is one of the leading causes of infertility in women. But it’s not just women who lose fertility with a STD, men too, can become infertile from a STD. STD screening is so important. Regular STD screening helps catch asymptomatic infections.

PID can cause scarring in the fallopian tubes (or a pair of tubes along which eggs travel from the ovaries to the uterus). This can make it difficult for the sperm to reach the egg or for the egg to be released properly. PID can also lead to an ectopic pregnancy where the fertilized egg doesn’t get to the uterus before implanting. A test called hysterosalpingogram or HSG can be performed to determine if a case of PID caused infertility. A HSG takes a  picture of the uterus and fallopian tubes by injecting dye through the cervix.  The HSG can detect any areas of the female reproductive tract that have blocked by scarring. If the dye can’t get through, neither can a sperm or egg. This test is used to help diagnose infertility caused by PID and related processes. Laparoscopy can also be performed to determine if a woman is infertile.

Laparoscopy is a simple way of looking into the abdominal and pelvic cavities without making a large incision. It is a valuable technique for establishing the cause of female infertility and evaluating other pelvic pathology. Laparoscopy is made possible by using a laparoscope, which is a miniature camera attached to a special optical system (fiber optics).The laparoscope provides excellent visualization of the abdominal cavity. With the help of this state-of-the-art technology, the uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries can be easily examined. Additional tests, such as evaluation of tubal potency and collection of biopsies, can also be performed laparoscopically. To provide an accurate diagnosis of the cause of infertility, laparoscopy is performed during the second part of the menstrual cycle (after ovulation). However, in selected cases it may be performed at other times in the menstrual cycle.

While many women do not experience symptoms with a STD, many men do and are treated promptly. This may be the reason STD-related infertility is less common in men. Unfortunately, men may still become infertile from a STD. If a man goes untreated for the STD, the structures of the male reproductive tract, including the epididymis (or a duct behind the testis) and urethra (or a duct by which urine is conveyed out of the body from the bladder), can be damaged by infection. Immunodeficiency from HIV can also reduce semen quality in men. Poor quality semen can make it harder for the woman to become pregnant. Semen analysis can determine the quality of the sperm.

The STDs to watch out for include:

  • chlamydia
  • gonorrhea
  • mycoplasma genitalium

If the STDs are detected early through STD screening and treated properly, neither the woman or the man have to necessarily become infertile. The STDs that cause infertility usually do so because of chronic, undetected infections. Therefore, it is very important to have STD screening before embarking on any other infertility treatment.

Our medical staff is also available to answer your questions at 1-800-244-0212.

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