How STDs Can Derail Your Pregnancy Plans

If you want children in your future, there’s an important step you can take now to protect your fertility: Avoid sexually transmitted disease (STD). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that STD infections cause infertility in at least 24,000 women each year.

What Are STDs?

STDs (also referred to as sexually transmitted infections or STIs) are bacterial or viral diseases spread through sexual contact, involving the penis, vagina, anus or mouth, with someone who has an STD. 

Common STDs include gonorrhea, chlamydia, human papillomavirus (HPV), genital herpes, syphilis and HIV (human immunodeficiency virus). Some STDs spread through body fluids like semen, vaginal fluid or blood. Some can be spread by contact with infected skin. You can protect yourself from STDs by avoiding risky sexual behavior.

“Women should avoid risky sexual behavior, be screened regularly for STDs, and use condoms or abstain from sexual contact to limit exposure to infections earlier in life.”

What’s Considered Risky Sexual Behavior?

Your chances of getting an STD increase when:

  • You have sex with more than one partner. The more partners, the greater your risk.
  • You have sex with someone who has more than one partner.
  • You or your partner have had sex with other people in the past. One of you may be carrying an STD from a previous partner and not know it.  
  • You have sex without using a condom. The CDC recommends always using a latex condom. 

You can have an STD and not even know it. That’s why it’s a good idea to get tested, and ask your partner to get tested, before you engage in sex. The CDC recommends annual screening of all sexually active women younger than 25 years – and older women with risk factors such as new or multiple sex partners, or a sex partner who has an STI.

Many STDs can be successfully treated with antibiotics when diagnosed early.

How Can STDs Cause Infertility?

STDs Derail Pregnancy small

Jeremy Groll, MD, of SpringCreek Fertility, says that “sexually transmitted diseases, primarily chlamydia and gonorrhea, can cause an infection in a woman’s fallopian tubes. The infection may lead to inflammation and scarring that blocks the tube and does not allow sperm to get to the egg. The tubal blockages can also prevent a fertilized egg from getting into the uterus and cause an ectopic pregnancy. Sometimes a woman’s fallopian tube must be removed when treating the ectopic pregnancy.”

STDs, primarily chlamydia and gonorrhea, can put you at risk for pelvic inflammatory disease, which can lead to infertility.

“Many STDs have mild or no symptoms at the time of diagnosis and treatment,” says Dr. Groll. “However, these infections can have lasting effects on a woman’s fertility. Therefore, prevention earlier in life is key to maintaining fertility until a woman is ready to conceive. Women should avoid risky sexual behavior, be screened regularly for STDs, and use condoms or abstain from sexual contact to limit exposure to infections earlier in life."

STDs can also cause infertility in men. In rare cases, chlamydia infection can spread to the epididymis, the tube that carries sperm. This causes pain, fever and, in rare cases, sterility.

When untreated, gonorrhea can also cause male sterility.

Jeremy Groll, MD

Jeremy Groll, MD

View Profile View Articles

Schedule an appointment

To find an OB/GYN or primary care provider, call (937) 489-4880(937) 489-4880 or complete the form below to receive a call from our call center to schedule an appointment.