Did you know that untreated Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI) have the tendency to affect once fertility?
STIs are passed from one person to another during vaginal, anal or oral sex.
Chlamydia and gonorrhea are the first and second most commonly reported bacterial STI in the United States. In 2019, a total of 1,808,703 cases of chlamydia and 616,392 cases of gonorrhea were reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) from 50 states and the District of Columbia.
According to CDC, Chlamydia and gonorrhea are important preventable causes of Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) and infertility. Untreated, about 10-15 per cent of women with chlamydia will develop PID. Chlamydia can also cause fallopian tube infection without any symptoms. PID and Chlamydia in the upper genital tract may cause permanent damage to the fallopian tubes, uterus, and surrounding tissues, which can lead to infertility.
If not treated, chlamydia could lead to damage reproductive system. In women, chlamydial infection can spread to the uterus or fallopian tubes and cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), according to the CDC. PID could damage the fallopian tubes and uterus and cause chronic pain, infertility, and ectopic pregnancy. Women who have chlamydia also are at much greater risk of becoming infected with HIV. In men, complications from chlamydia are rare.
Chlamydia and gonorrhea are the first and second most commonly reported bacterial sexually transmitted infections in the United States. In 2019, a total of 1,808,703 cases of chlamydia and 616,392 cases of gonorrhea were reported to CDC from 50 states and the District of Columbia.
Most women infected with chlamydia or gonorrhea have no symptoms.
CDC recommends annual chlamydia and gonorrhea screening of all sexually active women younger than 25 years, as well as older women with risk factors such as new or multiple sex partners, or a sex partner who has a sexually transmitted infection.
A Consultant gynecologist, at the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital, Dr Charles Takyi who also confirmed this to the Ghanaian Times in an interview said STIs are sexually transmitted infections transmitted from one person to another during unprotected sex or close sexual contact with the person who already has an STI, adding that there are four major types of STIs grouped into bacterial, viral, protozoa and other infections.
According to him having multiple sexual partners was one of the leading cause of STI, adding that some of these infections do not show any of symptoms, which he described as very dangerous.
He said though STIs are asymptomatic, gonorrhea has symptoms of vaginal discharge, fever, vomiting among others, “Chlamydia will not give you any symptoms but in a few instances the males will have urethral discharge but majority of people will go without noticing it”.
Dr Takyi said in terms of public health significance, there are eight major ones under bacterial and protozoa including gonorrhea, syphilis, chlamydia, and then trichomoniasis infection which is a protozoa.
Hesaid the remaining four includes HIV AIDS, Hepatitis B, Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) and herpes.
“Majority of STIs are asymptomatic. That means they are without symptoms so majority of people by the time they are detected to have it, it is too late, but there are a few symptoms when it comes to gonorrhea such as vaginal discharge, fever, vomiting but Chlamydia will not give you any symptoms and this is very dangerous and so most people will get it. In a few instances the males who have urethral discharge,”
“What happens is that through Chlamydia infections women tend to have damaged tubes. And these damaged tubes invariably lead to issues where either there is fertilization in tubes but the fertilized embryo is not able to come back into the womb which could lead to ectopic pregnancy,” he said,
Dr Takyi said there could be fertilization or not due to damaged tubes or to the to the extent that, the egg may not be able to travel and meet the sperm for pregnancy to take place.
He said pregnant women with chlamydia could pass the infection to an unborn baby if not treated on time.
He said untreated gonorrhea could lead to various complications in both men and women such as Infertility and infection to other parts of the body, therefore called on couples battling with infertility to seek early medical check-ups in order to have their problems solved.
Dr Takyi advised all sexually active women and men to be screened at least every year for infections for early detection and for treatment.
“Practicing safer sex can reduce the risk of getting infections in the first place and the best way for sexually active people to avoid infections is to use a condom and also maintaining one sexual partners,” he said
He said antibiotics are recommended as a form of treatment, adding that it was it was important for one to take the entire dose and abstain from sexual intercourse while being treated.
On a daily basis, according to him about 20 per cent of cases which were virginal discharge were reported to his facility, adding that through screening some were STIs.
Dr Takyi said most of the patients had already visited the pharmacy for self-medication.
“Some of them had already gone to the pharmacy to handle the infection but may not be properly treated. Because if you think it is candidiasis and then you are given medication for candidiasis and it is gonorrhea, then you will end up having a lot of issues.” he said
Dr Takyi advised that, “once you have unprotected sex with a partner that is not a regular partner then you should see a doctor so that you can be screened for STIs and then treatment come be give”.
In an interview Ghanaian Times, Madam YaaTawiahsaid years into marriage without pregnancy prompted her and her partner to consult a gynaecologist.
She said it was revealed that they both had Chlamydia, “we did not really notice any symptoms of chlamydia, discharge was normal just that sometimes I felt pain during intercourse but I thought it was normal”
According to her, both of them were put on medication and later she got pregnant.
“Our doctor said we came on time, other than that, I would have developed PID which might have affected my fertility,” she said.
By AGNES OPOKU SARPONG