Article updated: 27th March 2023
Millions of women spend their young adult years trying their best to practice safe sex. In fact, reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that over half of the female population in the United States uses some form of contraception . Still, CDC estimates that around 26 million STIs occur every year in the U.S alone with chlamydia being the most commonly reported bacterial STI.
Chlamydia is a sexually transmitted disease (STD) caused by the bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis. It is often referred to as the ‘silent infection’ because most people who contract it experience little to no symptoms. While anyone who is sexually active is at risk of developing chlamydia, reports note that around 1 in 20 sexually active young women are infected with it . When the infection goes untreated, it can affect fertility and result in Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) which is a common cause of ectopic pregnancy and chronic pelvic pain.
See also: Does Chlamydia Cause Long-Term Damage?
Can chlamydia cause infertility in females?
With early detection and the right treatment, a chlamydia infection can be cured. However, if chlamydia goes unnoticed and untreated (which is quite possible without regular sexual health screening and considering 70% of women have an asymptomatic infection), it can lead to infertility and PID.
CDC roughly estimates that 10-15% of women with chlamydia will develop PID; a common cause of ectopic pregnancy and permanent damage to the fallopian tubes, uterus, and surrounding tissues.
Remember, chlamydia can be treated with antibiotics which is why early detection is crucial to avoid any potential complications. You can check in on your sexual health with your local doctor or from home with an at-home sexual health test.
If PID goes untreated and causes scarring in the fallopian tubes, it makes it difficult for the fertilized egg to pass through the fallopian tube to implant in the uterus and can put women at an increased risk of ectopic pregnancy.
An ectopic pregnancy occurs when the fertilized egg implants and grows outside of the uterus rather than attaching to the lining of the uterus. More often than not, an ectopic pregnancy occurs in the fallopian tube and is referred to as a tubal pregnancy. Unfortunately, the pregnancy can’t be saved and can cause serious bleeding if left untreated, according to Mayo Clinic .
How likely is it to be infertile from chlamydia?
Both chlamydia and gonorrhea are preventable causes of both PID and infertility. If a chlamydia infection isn’t treated promptly and properly, it’s estimated that 10-15% of women with chlamydia will develop PID .
When it comes to keeping an eye on your sexual health and avoiding and potential complications, regular screening is a must. CDC recommends annual chlamydia and gonorrhea screening for all sexually active women younger than 25 and older women with risk factors (this includes pregnant women). This can be done with your doctor or from home with an at-home lab test.
Can infertility from chlamydia be reversed?
As mentioned above, when chlamydia goes undiagnosed and untreated, it can cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). PID can cause permanent damage to the reproductive organs including the uterus, fallopian tubes, and the surrounding tissues which can cause infertility. If PID is diagnosed early, however, it can be treated. And although treatment can’t undo any damage that has already been done, it can reduce the risk of any further complications.
It’s important to note that it is possible to get PID again even if you have already had it. In fact, according to the CDC, you’re more likely to get PID if you have had it before.
What STD causes infertility in females?
Chlamydia and gonorrhea are the two sexually transmitted diseases that can cause infertility or make pregnancy difficult in females.
Along with potentially causing PID, untreated chlamydia can cause problems during pregnancy, this includes preterm labor, low birth weight, and the passing on of the infection to the newborn. Untreated gonorrhea can also be passed on to a newborn during pregnancy and has also been linked to premature birth and low birth weight.
How long does it take for chlamydia to damage your reproductive system?
As mentioned, if chlamydia is left untreated, the bacteria can spread to the womb, ovaries, or the fallopian tubes, causing PID. There is no clear timeline on how long it may take for this to occur - while one study suggests that after exposure to the bacteria, it can take a few weeks for PID to develop, the NHS estimates that 1 in 10 women with untreated chlamydia could go on to develop PID within a year.
If you are experiencing symptoms of PID such as pain in your lower abdomen, unusual discharge, or pain during sex, it's important to speak with your healthcare provider.
Remember, to avoid any complications, regular sexual health screening is crucial - you can do this with your doctor or from the comfort of your couch with LetsGetChecked's range of sexual health tests.
One of the most reliable ways to keep an eye on your sexual health is through regular sexual health screening. This can be done with your doctor or from home with an at-home lab test.
LetsGetChecked’s range of at-home Sexual Health Tests can detect some of the most common sexually transmitted infections. Online results will be available within 2-5 days and our dedicated clinical team will be available to answer any questions you may have throughout the process. Should you test positive, you will receive a call to discuss your results and your treatment options.
You should consider taking a test if:
- You become sexually active
- You have had unprotected sex
- You are experiencing symptoms of a sexually transmitted infection
- You are entering into a new sexual relationship
- You have received a notification from a previous partner that they are infected
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Current Contraceptive Status Among Women Aged 15–49: United States, 2015–2017. Online: CDC.gov
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Chlamydia Factsheet. Online: CDC.gov
- NHS. Chlamydia. Online: NHS.uk
- Mayo Clinic. Ectopic Pregnancy. Online: Mayoclinic.org
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Infertility and STDs. Online: CDC.gov