Mother and Baby

Fertility A-Z: Chlamydia

It’s the most common sexually transmitted infection in the UK and, while chlamydia is often symptomless, it can cause fertility problems

What is it?

Chlamydia is a sexually transmitted infection, which you can catch at any age, but is most common in the under 25s. In some areas of the UK, as many as 20% of young adults may be affected.

The problem is that most people who have the infection simply don’t realise it, because they get no symptoms. In women, as many as 80% of those infected may have no signs.

Chlamydia is caused by a bacteria called Chlamydia trachomatis and, if left untreated, can cause serious complications, which can impact fertility.

Dr Yakoub Khalaf, a consultant in reproductive medicine at Guy’s Hospital in London, explains that the infection causes inflammation and scarring leading to a condition called pelvic inflammatory disease. ‘This affects the fallopian tubes which can become blocked.’

What are the symptoms?

For those who experience symptoms, it could include pain when urinating, unusual discharge or bleeding when it’s not your period or after sex.

It’s thought that tens of thousands of people could have the condition without realising it, and a National Screening Programme has been set up to try and catch more cases. Anyone can ask for a chlamydia test from their GP or sexual health clinic, and people under 25 can also get screened in pharmacies.

Testing is done with a urine sample or a swab and, if it comes back positive, the infection can easily be treated with antibiotics.

What can you do?

Yakoub says testing for chlamydia is routine when people are referred to fertility clinics because infection is known to damage the fallopian tubes. ‘Most of the time, the GP will have already done the test and prompt treatment can minimise the damage.’

See your GP…

If you have had unprotected sex and would like a test or you have any signs of infection. The GP will also test you if you have been trying for a baby for more than a year with no success.

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