Especially when a person or couple is trying to conceive, efforts to be as healthy and fertile as possible are often made into consistent habits. Things like eating healthy, making sure exercise is a priority, and staying away from alcohol and smoking are often lifestyle changes and precautions that are taken early on, to help maintain optimal health throughout the pregnancy process.

However, as around 13% of couples find out, conceiving a baby can often be much more difficult than previously thought. For some of these individuals and couples facing fertility challenges, this could be due to issues (or previous issues) with sexually transmitted diseases. For many, these are often unknown to the individuals and, unbeknownst to them, can carry consequences far after an STD was passed on to them. 

So, what are some things that you need to know about sexually transmitted infections and you (or your partner’s) fertility? 

There are not always symptoms:

Especially when it comes to STDs like chlamydia and gonorrhea, symptoms are not always obvious or present at all. In fact, these particular STDs are two of the leading causes of infertility in the United States, often because the diseases went undetected. In cases like these, the disease can spread to the uterus and fallopian tubes, causing other issues like Pelvic Inflammatory Disease, and making it difficult to get pregnant in the long run.

While both of these are easily treatable with antibiotics, it’s when they’re left untreated or undetected that the majority of problems come into play, and can lead to infertility.

When symptoms are present, they’re important to recognize:

In general, it’s important to monitor your sexual health so that you’re in-the-know when it comes to your own body. With this in mind, it’s just as imperative to get the opinion of a doctor if you feel something could be amiss. If you’re sexually active and have any of the following symptoms, it’s probably time to get checked out by a physician:

  1. Sores or bumps on genitals or rectal area
  2. Pain during sex
  3. Unusual discharge from the penis or vagina
  4. Pain in the lower abdomen
  5. Unusual vaginal bleeding 
  6. Painful urination
  7. Rash on the hands, feet or trunk

At the end of the day, remember— It’s better to be safe than sorry.

STDs are Preventable:

Although fertility can certainly be affected by sexually transmitted diseases, the good news is, they’re definitely preventable. Although the only way to be 100% sure is the abstain from sex in the first place, there are a number of precautions that you can take, before you’re looking to conceive a child, in an effort to maintain your sexual health. These can include: 

  1. Condoms
  2. Frequent testing
  3. Getting vaccinated for eligible diseases (such as HPV) 

Ensuring you wash thoroughly before and after intercourse.

STD infertility can affect men, as well as women:

Although when the subject of infertility is brought up, it’s often women’s issues that come to mind, conception issues caused by STDs can affect men directly as well. In fact, when it comes to chlamydia and gonorrhea, for example, men can suffer repricutious similar to women. In males, these diseases can even result in something called epididymitis, or a painful swelling and inflammation of the tubes attached to the testicles. When untreated, this can lead to sexual health issues, as well as infertility in extreme cases.

Testing is Imperative:

Even if you’re not actively trying to conceive a child, chances are, you may at least want the option in the future. This makes it absolutely essential that, if you’re sexually active, you get tested often and regularly. Not only can this help to catch diseases before they become more serious, but it can also help you to identify any issues that may not be producing any symptoms. This can help to protect your fertility in the long run, as well as prevent you from spreading an STD that you may not know you have.

Staying in close communication with your doctor is essential:

According to the CDC, there are about 20 million new STD infections every year. Especially if you do get diagnosed with an STD at some point, it’s important to maintain clear and open communication with your doctor. When it comes to fertility, you’ll want to ensure that you know any and all repercussions, risks, and options that you have for the future. 

Conceiving a child, especially when fertility is proving itself to be an issue, can drum up a number of emotions. However, what’s important is to stay educated on the things that could potentially affect your fertility, know signs and symptoms to look out for, and stay in close communication with your doctor. Not only can this help you to get past any obstacles you may be facing, but it can also help you to make the right decisions for you and/or your partner moving forward.

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