Can STDs play a role in infertility?

New Delhi (IANSlife) STDs, as the name suggests, are diseases that are transmitted from one person to another through sexual contact. They can have significant implications for both female and male fertility. In women, STDs can lead to various complications such as pelvic inflammation, pelvic infections, blockage of the fallopian tubes, and infections of the uterus. These complications can significantly impair the ability to conceive, even after undergoing assisted reproductive techniques like in vitro fertilization (IVF). Infections of the pelvis play a major role in impacting fertility.

In men, STDs can cause infections in the testes, epididymis, and other male reproductive organs. These infections can result in decreased sperm count, reduced sperm motility, abnormal sperm shape (morphology), and failures in fertilization and implantation. There are several consequences associated with STDs in men, with one notable example being Neisseria gonorrhoeae. This often presents with genital discharge accompanied by itching, burning, and fever. If left untreated, it can persist in the body and lead to recurrent infections, particularly in the absence of appropriate antibiotic treatment. These chronic infections can have severe long-term effects on fertility

Types of STDs

The most prevalent STD in women is Chlamydia trachomatis, followed by Neisseria gonorrhoeae. Additionally, HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) and HBSAG (hepatitis B surface antigen) are seen in both sexes.

Gonorrhea is caused by the bacteria Neisseria gonorrhoeae, which is primarily transmitted through sexual contact. Within a few days of infection, women may experience symptoms such as painful urination, lower abdominal pain, significant white discharge, fever, fatigue, and common infections. If promptly diagnosed and treated by a healthcare professional, symptoms usually subside within 14-21 days. However, if left undiagnosed and untreated, the infection can ascend the genital tract, leading to uterine and endometrial infections, tubal infections, and difficult-to-treat tubal blockages.

In the case of Chlamydia trachomatis, the acute stage does not typically produce noticeable symptoms like those caused by Neisseria gonorrhoeae. It can go unnoticed while spreading within the body and causing adhesions between the fallopian tubes and ovaries. This can result in tubal blockages, fallopian tube dysfunction, and subsequent fertility issues. Men can also have asymptomatic infections that can later lead to strictures, urethritis, epididymitis, orchitis, and potential blockages which can result in reduced sperm count.

HIV is another sexually transmitted disease, and although it doesn’t directly impact fertility, it poses risks for transmission to the baby. Additionally, the immune dysfunction caused by HIV can expose both men and women to other infections. The antiretroviral therapy used to treat HIV can also have implications for fertility. Hepatitis, particularly when transmitted vertically from mother to baby, is a concerning STD. Immediate vaccination and administration of immunoglobulin are typically given to the newborn to prevent various diseases.

Safeguarding Sexual Health: Treatment and Precautions for STDs

When experiencing symptoms such as severe genital discharge, foul odor, burning urine, fever, or rashes in the genital area, it is crucial for both men and women to consider the possibility of an STD. A swab is taken from the discharge and tested for gonorrhea or chlamydia. If the test is positive, a specific course of antibiotics targeting the virus or bacteria is prescribed for 21 days. After completing the treatment, a follow-up visit is necessary to ensure complete resolution. If persistent symptoms persist, further investigations and treatments should be pursued.

Individuals with a history of recurrent STDs should exercise caution and be fully educated on the potential effects. It is important to avoid multiple sexual partners and engage in protected sex. Unfortunately, engaging in unprotected sex has become increasingly common. Promptly seeking medical attention when symptoms arise is crucial, as delaying treatment can lead to complications. Educating teenagers about the harmful consequences of STDs is essential, as these infections can result in unwanted pregnancies that may be terminated without adequate expertise, potentially leading to future infections and fertility issues.

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