Sexually Transmitted Diseases That Affect Fertility & Pregnancy

If you’re thinking about getting pregnant, you’re probably taking all the precautionary steps to make sure your body is in peak shape for baby-making and baby-carrying. Unfortunately though, if you’ve ever had a sexually transmitted disease (STD) or sexually transmitted infection (STI), starting a family might not be so easy. Some STDs and STIs can do long-term damage to your body. Concerned? Here’s what you need to know…

1. Human Papillomavirus (HPV)
The human papillomavirus is the most common STI — so common, in fact, that nearly all sexually active men and women will have it at some point in their lives, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). In most cases, people are asymptomatic, although many will contract genital warts, while others will actually develop precancerous cells in the cervix. For the most part, HPV alone will not affect your chances of getting pregnant or having a healthy pregnancy. However, if you develop precancerous cells from it, the therapies used to remove the cells can change your cervical mucous and thus slow sperm down, says Bradley J. Monk, MD, of the University of Arizona Cancer Center. If you’ve never had the virus, you can be given the HPV vaccine until the age of 26.

2. Chlamydia and Gonorrhea
These very common STIs are often asymptomatic, so you may go for a long time before being diagnosed. Unfortunately, that means the bacteria has time to damage the fallopian tubes, ovaries, and uterus, and result in a condition known as pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). “It can cause irreversible scarring of the fallopian tubes, making it difficult for the egg to safely travel through the tubes to meet the sperm,” says Sheryl A. Ross, MD, a Los Angeles-based ob-gyn and women’s health expert. “One terrible PID infection can lead to permanent infertility and increase your risk of dangerous ectopic pregnancies.” While prevention is the best defense against  contracting these STIs, treating them early with antibiotics can help protect against fertility complications. If you’re under 25 and sexually active, having sex with multiple partners, or having unprotected sex, Dr. Ross recommends getting tested at least once a year.

3. Herpes
The CDC estimates that one out of every six people, ages 14 to 49, has genital herpes. Once you get the herpes simplex virus (HSV), it’s in your body forever, and you can continue to get outbreaks. Although it doesn’t affect your fertility, it can affect your delivery once you become pregnant. If you get pregnant, and have Type 2 herpes, which cause sores in the genital area, you will need to be treated with medication starting a month before your due date, to prevent an outbreak during delivery, says Dr. Ross. If you do have an outbreak at the time of delivery, doctors will recommend a C-section so that your baby doesn’t get infected with herpes.

This STD is easy to cure, but it can cause serious complications for a pregnant woman. Spread from open sores during intercourse and oral sex, syphilis develops in stages, starting with painless sores and turning into a rash. Sometimes though, there are only mild symptoms or no symptoms at all, according to the CDC. “Once you get pregnant, a blood panel is performed which checks for syphilis, and if you test positive, it’s treated immediately with antibiotics,” says Dr. Ross. “If gone untreated, the disease can lead to fetal and placental anomalies, preterm labor, fetal distress, and fetal death.”

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