How STD and STI Can Cause Infertility

Having an STD is like winning a lottery... Except it feels nothing like winning a lottery...

When you find out that you have an STD (Sexually Transmitted Disease), you have a host of overwhelming emotions, including shame, fear and anger. You start asking questions about whether it's curable or whether it will affect your plans to have children one day.

While STDs and STIs don't usually lead to infertility on their own, they can cause reproductive problems that may make you infertile. It’s important to understand how STDs and STIs can cause infertility.

What The Difference Between STD And STI?

Most sexually active people are familiar with the term STD (Sexually Transmitted Disease) and STI (Sexually Transmitted Infection). The terms are often used interchangeably. But technically, the sexually transmitted infection occurs before the sexually transmitted disease, which follows from the infection. STD or STI, you don’t want either one.

STDs come with obvious symptoms. Whereas, people who have an STI often have no symptoms. That means it’s possible for people to have STIs they don’t even know about.

Most STIs can be effectively managed through medication. However, to receive treatment, you'll need to know you have the infection.

That's why we recommend annual or bi-annual sexually-transmitted disease (STD) screening and that we strongly encourage all couples to do. Infertility doesn’t only happen to women.

Infertility Caused by Bacterial STIs/STDs

STIs such as Chlamydia and Gonorrhoea can often go unnoticed due to a lack of symptoms, resulting in a lack of treatment and more damage.

When STIs are left untreated, they can cause Epididymitis in men, which is an inflammation of the tube that stores and transports sperm from the testicle. In women, the infections can move up the reproductive system and spread to the woman’s uterus, ovaries, and fallopian tubes, causing damage, scarring, or inflammation, causing pelvic inflammatory disease (PID).

When the fallopian tubes are damaged or blocked, this can result in infertility in two ways:

It can prevent sperm from reaching the egg in the fallopian tube for fertilization, and

It can prevent a fertilized egg from entering the uterus to implant for pregnancy.

Infertility Caused by Viral STIs/STDs

Human Papillomavirus (HPV) and Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV) don’t directly cause infertility, but HSV can make you more vulnerable to other infections.  HPV can progress to cervical cancer, and the treatments can sometimes make you less fertile.

HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) can make it more difficult to get pregnant. This might be due to the virus itself or because sexual behaviours have changed as a result of HIV. Many people who are living with HIV are worried that they might pass on HIV to their partner or baby.

Preventing infertility caused by STI/STDs

Since STIs can remain in the body for years without ever showing signs, all sexually active people should have annual or bi-annual screenings where they are tested for STDs.