Part of the set of standard fertility tests includes testing for the sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) Chlamydia and Gonorrhoea. Both the man and the woman should be tested for these diseases, but it is often the case that only the woman gets tested. This is because it is assumed that if the woman is clear, so is the man. However, this is not always true, so it is still important for the man to be tested as well as the woman.
The reason why these two particular STDs are part of the standard set of fertility tests your doctor will send you for is because they are the most common STDs that affect fertility, and quite often people don’t know they have them as they may not have any obvious symptoms.
Chlamydia and Gonorrhoea Testing Procedure
The procedure for testing for Chlamydia and Gonorrhoea will depend upon your doctor’s practice and the facilities it has at its disposal:
- Some doctors will give you a sterile sample pot and ask you to fill it with urine. You will then need to either take the sample pot back to your doctors or a pathology lab for them to test it
- Some doctors will refer you to a sexual health clinic, where they will take a swab from your cervix (the lower part of a woman’s uterus) or urethra (the opening of a man’s penis). If you are sent to a sexual health clinic, you may also be tested for other STDs at the same time
What Happens If the Result Is Positive?
If you are found to have either one of these STDs, then both you and your partner will be given a course of antibiotics. These will completely clear up the infection, but there may be lasting damage to your fertility which can only be determined by a further test:
- The man will need to have a Semen Analysis Test
- The woman will need to have a Hysterosalpingogram (HSG)
Expect to be sent for these tests even if you do not have an STD. This is because both these tests are part of the normal set of fertility tests your doctor will send you for anyway.
How Chlamydia and Gonorrhoea Affect Fertility
Chlamydia is the most common sexually transmitted infection, with an estimated 1 in 9 people having or having had the disease in the UK (with similar numbers in other Western countries). Many people don’t even know they have it, as this disease often does not have any symptoms. Contrary to popular opinion, it can make men infertile as well as women.
Chlamydia affects women’s fertility by causing Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID), which if left untreated can cause scarring and blockages to the fallopian tubes (the tubes that connect the ovaries and uterus).
In men, Chlamydia can cause ejaculatory duct blockages, which prevent sperm from mixing with the semen ejaculate. It has also been found to damage the DNA in the sperm, which can reduce the number of healthy sperm the man produces.
Gonorrhoea can affect a woman’s fertility in a similar way to Chlamydia, by causing PID which can cause damage and blockages to the fallopian tubes. It can also cause an ectopic pregnancy, where the baby grows outside of the uterus.
In men, Gonorrhoea can affect a man’s fertility by infecting the epididymis (the tubes connected to the testicles that store and carry sperm) causing a condition called epididymitis and causing ejaculatory duct obstructions. If that wasn’t bad enough, it can also cause painful abscess in the inside of the penis.
Is There Anything Else I Need to Know?
It Is Not Just Chlamydia and Gonorrhoea That Affect Fertility
Chlamydia and Gonorrhoea are not the only STDs that can affect fertility. They are just the most common and often have no obvious symptoms. Any STD has the potential to cause fertility problems in either men or women. If you have ever had an STD, even if you have been cured, advise your doctor about it at your preconception meeting with them. It may influence how soon your doctor refers you for fertility tests.
Depending on where you live in the world and its population demographics, your doctor may send you for a blood test for Syphilis, Hepatitis and HIV as well as for Chlamydia and Gonorrhoea.
The Sooner you Take an STD Test the Better
You don’t need to wait until your doctor refers you for an STD test. If you have ever had unprotected sex with anyone other than your partner, you should consider going for an STD test even if you are not currently trying for a baby. The longer you have an STD, the more likely it is to do lasting damage and cause infertility. Remember: STDs do not always show symptoms. And if the results come back negative, no harm has been done and you can cross it off your Pre-Pregnancy Checklist.
If you live in the UK, to find your local sexual health clinic click on this link to the NHS website: NHS Visiting an STI Clinic. If you don’t live in the UK, simply Google “sexual health clinic” and the name of the area you live in.