Regular sexual health checks are essential for good health, regardless of the number of partners you have had. If you would like to conceive, it is especially important to ensure that you do not have any STIs, both for your own health and that of your baby.
Nearly half a million people are diagnosed with an STI every single year and they can cause a range of complications for people who would like to start a family. Long-term, untreated STIs can have a serious effect on fertility and up to 25% of infertility cases are down to a previous STI.
Many STIs are symptom-free, so without a test there is no way of knowing for certain whether or not you are affected – up to half of men and women with chlamydia and gonorrhoea are asymptomatic and do not realise that they have the infection.
When left untreated, infections develop – half of chlamydia and gonorrhoea infections turn into pelvic inflammatory disease when left untreated. Regular checks prevent this and ensure that any infections are treated quickly and fully to prevent long-term effects on your health.
Since each infection is different, they have different effects on fertility. Many of these infections block fallopian tubes, which can prevent eggs from travelling to the uterus ready to be fertilised and can even increase the chances of ectopic pregnancy. Pelvic inflammatory disease and chlamydia can both block and degrade fallopian tubes in women, while chlamydia damages sperm and can cause scarring in the reproductive tract in men.
Other infections such as herpes can even cause cervical cancer, but do not have a direct effect on fertility. In most cases, however, couples refrain from sex during a break out which can reduce opportunities to conceive during each ovulation. If herpes is active during birth, it may also mean that the doctors opt for a C-section to prevent herpetic shedding to the baby.
What You Should Do If Diagnosed with an STI
If you have been tested and diagnosed with an STI, it’s important that you treat it fully. This means taking the full course of antibiotics and being tested again once it has been completed to ensure that the course has been effective. Both partners should be tested at the same time and refrain from unprotected sex until the infection has cleared, to avoid passing it back and forth accidentally.
If you have had an STI in the past and would like to conceive, it may be worth discussing the particular infection with your doctor to see whether you require an ultrasound to check for blockages. This is a simple and pain-free procedure to ensure there are no obvious barriers to conceiving.