How does Chlamydia impact fertility?
First of all, STIs are very common - according to the US Central for Disease Control, 1 in 4 sexually active females has an STD (ref 1) - but there’s still a huge stigma around STDs, and there shouldn’t be.
Why should I care about Chlamydia and how can it impact me and my body?
Out of all the STDs, Chlamydia is one of the most common ones. On average, in the Netherlands around 15% of women and 18% of men test positive for Chlamydia each year - that means 1 out of 6 people you know has Chlamydia (ref 2), not including ones who had the infection in the past.,
As Chlamydia infections can sometimes cause serious consequences for your fertility and chances of conceiving (ref 3), let’s take a look at what it means to you and your body.
What is Chlamydia and how can I know whether I have it
In science terms, Chlamydia is a sexually transmissible infection caused by the bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis (ref 4). This bacterium can infect different parts of the body, for instance the throat, urethra, conjunctiva of the eyes, rectum and the cervix (ref 2). It can be transmitted through sexual contact or direct contact with infected tissue (ref 4).
What that means in non science terms and in relation to fertility, the infection resulting from Chlamydia can cause scarring in affected areas - including blocking the fallopian tubes - which means sperms will have a harder time reaching the eggs.
Do I or have I had Chlamydia?
The most common symptoms for Chlamydia in a woman are: vaginal discharge, bleeding in between menstruations, a burning sensation when urinating, pain in the lower abdomen (ref 2, 4, 5). These symptoms may take 5 to 10 days to develop, but most people who are infected with Chlamydia will not get any symptoms at all - crazy no?
Though you might not see any symptoms, your body still did the work to fight it off. And because of that, your body will leave traces of the antibodies which we can detect to a Chlamydia IgG test. If these are present, it means that there was a chlamydia infection (ref 6).
What can happen if I have Chlamydia?
Several cases and studies have shown that Chlamydia has serious consequences for your fertility. A prior Chlamydia infection is associated with a higher risk of ectopic pregnancy (i.e. a pregnancy outside your uterus, for example in your fallopian tubes or even in your abdominal cavity. (ref 7, 8, 9)). This is because Chlamydia can cause inflammation of the upper genital tract, and as a result fallopian tubes may scar and therefore prohibit egg cells from travelling from your ovaries to your uterus (ref 4, 10, 11). The scar tissue can block your tubes and therefore could result in infertility (ref 3, 12).
How do I manage Chlamydia?
Chlamydia can luckily be treated with antibiotics and you can get that from your GP However, as many do not have any symptoms from Chlamydia, your body ends up doing the healing itself, which of course takes a bit longer than if you were taking antibiotics
Is it preventable?
There is a 5% chance to get Chlamydia if you have intercourse with someone who is infected (ref 13). Of course you are unlikely to get STDs if you don’t have sex - but let’s be real. The best prevention will be to use condoms while having sexual intercourse or make sure neither you or your partner has infections (ref 2).
What can we do for you at Grip?
Fortunately, analyzing the amount of chlamydia antibodies is just as easy as analyzing the amount of iron or cholesterol in your blood. At Grip, we test Chlamydia antibodies. Through our test, we can help you get more insight in the amount of antibodies that you currently have and the risk of having an infection with chlamydia. This way we can know if you had Chlamydia even if you never experienced any symptoms.
1. STDs in Adolescents and Young Adults - 2017 Sexually Transmitted Diseases Surveillance. Center for Disease Control. https://www.cdc.gov/std/stats17/adolescents.htm. Published 2018. Accessed July 28, 2020
3. Ness R, Smith K, Chang C, Schisterman E, Bass D. Prediction of Pelvic Inflammatory Disease Among Young, Single, Sexually Active Women. Sex Transm Dis. 2006;33(3):137-142. doi:10.1097/01.olq.0000187205.67390.d1
6. Hoenderboom B, van Willige M, Land J et al. Antibody Testing in Estimating Past Exposure to Chlamydia trachomatis in the Netherlands Chlamydia Cohort Study. Microorganisms. 2019;7(10):442. doi:10.3390/microorganisms7100442
7. Bakken I, Skjeldestad F, Nordbø S. Chlamydia Trachomatis Infections Increase the Risk for Ectopic Pregnancy: A Population-Based, Nested Case-Control Study. Sex Transm Dis. 2007;34(3):166-169. doi:10.1097/01.olq.0000230428.06837.f7
8. Egger M, Low N, Smith G, Lindblom B, Herrmann B. Screening for chlamydial infections and the risk of ectopic pregnancy in a county in Sweden: ecological analysis. BMJ. 1998;316(7147):1776-1780. doi:10.1136/bmj.316.7147.1776
11. Sivalingam V, Duncan W, Kirk E, Shephard L, Horne A. Diagnosis and management of ectopic pregnancy. Journal of Family Planning and Reproductive Health Care. 2011;37(4):231-240. doi:10.1136/jfprhc-2011-0073
13. Tu W, Ghosh P, Katz B. A stochastic model for assessing Chlamydia trachomatis transmission risk by using longitudinal observational data. Journal of the Royal Statistical Society: Series A (Statistics in Society). 2011;174(4):975-989. doi:10.1111/j.1467-985x.2011.00691.x