Chlamydia is one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases (STD’s), and yet, one of the least known.
It is caused by the intracellular bacteria Chlamydia Trachomatis and is three times more common in women than in men. According to estimates by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), each year 2.8 million people are infected by chlamydia in the United States alone.
In 40 percent of untreated cases, chlamydia infects cervical cells and extends to the ovaries, fallopian tubes or the uterus, causing pelvic inflammatory (PID) or fallopian tube blockage.
This can affect fertility in several ways:
- Cervical infections may prevent the sperm from reaching the uterine cavity
- Ovarian infections may produce ovulatory alterations, as well as an egg quality and quantity decrease or even cause an ovarian abscess
- Tubal (fallopian tubes) infection may cause hidrosalpinx, which is a blockage of one or both tubes. Hydrosalpinx causes infertility since blockage of fallopian tubes will likely stop the sperm from finding the patient’s egg to fertilize it. If it happens somehow, however, it also obstructs the path of the fertilized egg into the uterus thus increasing the risk of ectopic pregnancy
- Uterine infection may cause an insufficient endometrial development or inflammation (endometritis) which in turn can hinder the embryo implantation process
- It can produce inflammatory reactions that result in formation of pelvic adhesions at fallopian tube level, which interfere in gametes (eggs and sperm) transportation
- Since it can cause pain during intercourse, many couples are forced to avoid sexual contact during the patient’s most fertile phase, which obviously prevents conception
In addition, untreated chlamydia can have serious consequences during pregnancy, such as:
- Increased ectopic pregnancy risk
- Increased spontaneous miscarriage risk
- Amniotic fluid infections
- Premature membrane rupture
- Premature birth
- Low newborn weight
- Newborn pneumonia or conjunctivitis infections with during vaginal delivery
Main chlamydia symptoms
Chlamydia is known as a silent illness since 75 percent of women infected with this bacterium do not show any symptoms. In the rest of the cases, symptoms can appear between one and three weeks after infection, which include:
- Abnormal vaginal discharge
- A burning sensation during urination
- Bleeding between menstrual periods
- Dyspareunia, or painful intercourse
- Pelvic pain
If you have any of these symptoms, you must avoid sexual contact and consult a doctor immediately. Timely treatment of chlamydia can prevent pelvic inflammatory disorder and the consequent damage to the woman’s reproductive organs.
Chlamydia can be transmitted during unprotected vaginal or anal intercourse. It can also be found in the throat of both men and women who have had unprotected oral sex with an infected partner.
Any sexually active person can be infected with chlamydia; nevertheless, the risk of infection is proportional to the number of sexual partners they have or have had.
It is important to point out that chlamydia can also be transmitted from mother to child during vaginal childbirth; therefore, it is important that women infected with untreated chlamydia give birth by cesarean section.
How is chlamydia diagnosed?
In addition to a medical background analysis and an easy, painless vaginal examination that takes just a few minutes, your specialist must take a vaginal and cervical cell sample with a swab and send it to the laboratory, where it will be scanned for infected DNA.
It is also suggested to perform blood or urine tests to detect the antibodies that the body produces after exposure to the Chlamydia Trachomatis bacterium.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that all sexually active women under 25 and women over 25 with a high infection risk (who have a new or multiple sexual partners) undergo an annual chlamydia detection test. Likewise, the presence of the bacteria must be ruled out in all pregnant women.
Chlamydia and gonorrhea frequently occur together; therefore, if you have chlamydia, it is advisable to also undergo a gonorrhea detection test.
Similarly, it is advisable for women with advanced chlamydia to undergo a gynecological transvaginal ultrasound, during which the specialist will carefully insert an ultrasound probe into the patient’s vagina in order to determine the damage that the infection could have caused to her reproductive organs.
Treatments to achieve pregnancy when you have chlamydia
Chlamydia can be easily treated and cured with antibiotics such as azithromycin and doxycycline.
Chlamydia infected patients should abstain from sexual intercourse until they and their sex partners have been treated. Otherwise, there is a high reinfection risk with serious complications to reproductive health. To ensure that therapy has been effective, a subsequent control is recommended.
If the patient’s reproductive organs are damaged (principally in the case of tubal obstruction), In-Vitro Fertilization (IVF) is the recommended treatment to achieve pregnancy. The damage caused by Chlamydia trachomatis bacteria frequently alters gamete (eggs and sperm) transport or blocks the path of the fertilized egg towards the uterus.
However, In-Vitro Fertilization (IVF) allows our specialists to obtain the eggs directly from the patient’s ovaries. These eggs are fertilized under controlled laboratory conditions to generate embryos with a higher implantation potential which are then transferred back into the patient’s uterus.
Therefore, In-Vitro Fertilization (IVF) makes the fallopian tubes no longer indispensable, offering greater pregnancy probabilities when compared to other available treatments.
It is important to treat existing chlamydia infections before beginning an In-Vitro Fertilization (IVF) cycle, as this may have an adverse effect on the success rates of this procedure.