There are many lifestyle factors and medical conditions that can affect a person’s fertility, including having had a sexually transmitted infection in the past. When trying to conceive, most people aren’t thinking about the sexually transmitted infection they had years ago, but that infection may have impacted their fertility potential. Infections, such as gonorrhea, chlamydia, HIV, and herpes have all been shown to have the ability to negatively impact a person’s future fertility.
Gonorrhea and chlamydia are two of the biggest culprits for causing female infertility. Both of these sexually transmitted infections can cause scarring of the fallopian tubes, which can make it difficult for an egg to become fertilized. Scarring of the fallopian tubes also increases a woman’s chance of having an ectopic pregnancy, which can be a serious and life-threatening condition.
It is thought that approximately half of all tubal factor infertility cases are caused in some way by chlamydia. Unfortunately, this sexually transmitted infection often does not cause noticeable symptoms, so it can go undiagnosed for long periods of time. That’s why it is important to have routine testing for sexually transmitted infections, even if you are not experiencing any unusual symptoms.
Men can also have fertility complications as a result of a prior sexually transmitted infection. Prior infections can cause damage to the urethra and affect sperm health. Prior studies have shown that both herpes simplex virus and HIV may cause low sperm counts in men.
Luckily, the majority of people who have had a prior sexually transmitted infection will not have any difficulty conceiving. If you’ve had a prior infection and are having difficulty conceiving though, you may want to see your physician about having some baseline fertility testing performed. For women with a prior history of gonorrhea and/or chlamydia, a hysterosalpingogram would be recommended to evaluate the patency of their fallopian tubes.
And, if you’re not trying to conceive right now, but know you want to have children in the future, one of the best things you can do to protect your future fertility is to routinely use condoms with any new partners until you have both been checked for sexually transmitted infections.