Sexually transmitted infections can affect your ability to have children – if left untreated, even an asymptomatic STI can lead to scarring on the reproductive tracts of both men and women, leading to infertility.
Infections can go untreated and unnoticed for years, so it's vital that you get regular checks to preserve your ability to have children.
Which STIs cause infertility?
The most commonly associated with infertility include:
Chlamydia is one of the top two causes of Pelvic Inflammatory Disease – an illness that doubles your risk of infertility. Chlamydia can cause "silent" infections in the upper genital tract, which can cause permanent damage/scarring to your fallopian tubes, uterus and other organs critical to baby-making. The majority of people with chlamydia show no signs of infection at all. But some notable symptoms include pelvic pain or unusual spotting and discharge in women, swollen or tender testicles in men and pain during sex for both men and women.
Like chlamydia, gonorrhoea can cause scarring that blocks your fallopian tubes and increases your risk of having an ectopic pregnancy. And if you do manage to get pregnant, you can pass the illness onto your baby. While there are symptoms, in most cases women do not show them, so you need to make sure you are regularly checked.
Symptoms of gonorrhoea can include abnormal discharge, pain or burning sensation while urinating, heavier periods or spotting, sore throat, pain during sex and fever.
Herpes is one of the most common viruses in the world. Genital herpes is known to cause early miscarriages and can also be passed on to your baby where it can cause a life-threatening illness called neonatal herpes.
Again, most people with genital herpes will show no symptoms. In those who do show symptoms, painful sores and blisters will often appear. There is currently no cure for herpes, but you can manage symptoms with medication.
The advent of antibiotics almost wiped out syphilis but it's making a comeback. Cases have doubled in the last five years. Syphilis is highly contagious and can have many long-term health complications, including infertility.
Syphilis symptoms include watery discharge from the nose, painful inflammation, enlarged liver and spleen, swelling of the lymph nodes and sores around the genitals.
Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) weakens your immune system so that it can't fight disease. AIDS is the condition caused by HIV when your immune system is damaged and can't fight other infections – so you get sick very easily. If you didn't know you were infected with HIV, you might suffer from some of these symptoms – being tired, swollen lymph nodes, night sweats, fever, unexplained weight loss, purplish spots on your skin and aching muscles.
- Human Papillomavirus
Or HPV for short – is extremely common. HPV currently has no medical cure but in most cases, your body will clear the HPV infection itself. If you're HPV positive it doesn't necessarily affect your conception abilities, but if you have a cancerous strain, you could end up with precancerous cells in your cervix and this can impact future baby-making.
Every time you have a smear test you’ll be checked for HPV.
Want to discover more about symptoms that might indicate a fertility problem? Read our eBook, Common Signs of Infertility.