CHLAMYDIA AND SUB-FERTILITY

Neddy Makonza| Nust-ZW

Thandiwe is a graduate from a prominent University in the country. Her wedding was so extravagant that all girls wished they were in her shoes. Being married to a renowned businessman in the city was her dream and a door to endless opportunities.

Ben, her husband, was so eager to have children and was disappointed when their first pregnancy was ectopic, a complication in which the embryo attaches out of the womb. However, they did not lose hope. They tried again and Thandiwe got another complication. The couple was hopeful that they would have a baby the natural way, hence, they refused the doctor’s advice on trying Assisted Reproductive Therapy(ART).

The sad couple later decided to seek medical counselling from a professional. They sat and held each other’s hands for comfort as Dr Newton looked at them above her spectacles.

Dr Newton gave them an endless list of the possible causes of tubal blockage, ectopic pregnancy and subfertility. She tried by all means to make the couple understand how vast the pathophysiology can be. However, the most common cause especially in Thandiwe’s age group and background was PELVIC INFLAMMATORY DISEASE (PID). It is very common amongst young ladies below 25 years and the most common cause are infections especially by Gonorrhea co infected by Chlamydia. The long-term effects of PID affects the reproductive tract leading to subfertility (difficulty in having a child), chronic pelvic pain and ectopic pregnancies in the future.

The couple was reassured and they agreed to try using ART was available at most clinics in the country.

This lead to a discussion of STIs,  in particular Chlamydia. JUST BECAUSE IT DOES NOT SHOW DOESN’T MEAN ITS NOT THERE.

The scariest thing about Chlamydia in particular as an STI is that most people who have chlamydia have no symptoms (about 75% women and 50 % men).

What is Chlamydia?

Chlamydia is a common sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by the bacterium, Chlamydia trachomatis. Chlamydia infections are extremely common affecting both females and males.

You can get chlamydia by having vaginal, anal, or oral sex with someone who has chlamydia even if the male partner does not ejaculate. It can also be passed on to baby from an infected mother at childbirth and causes drastic damage to the baby. Any sexually active person can be infected with chlamydia. The greater the number of sex partners, the greater the risk of infection. If you get treated, it does not give you immunity to reinfection.

How can one reduce the risk of getting Chlamydia? The best answer is abstinence thus no risk to all STIs. However, measures can be taken to prevent acquisition and long term complications of the disease. Being in a long-term mutually monogamous relationship with a partner who has been tested and has negative STD test results; Using latex condoms every time you have sex and getting treatment early can be greatly effective to preserve the reproductive system.

The scariest thing about Chlamydia in particular as an STI is that most people who have chlamydia have no symptoms (about 75% women and 50 % men). If you do have symptoms, they may not appear until several weeks after you have sex with an infected partner. Even when chlamydia is asymptomatic, it can damage your reproductive system.

Symptoms

  • An abnormal vaginal discharge or from the penis
  • A burning sensation when urinating.
  • Pain and swelling in one or both testicles (although this is less common)

If the infection spreads from the cervix to the fallopian tubes some women still have no signs or symptoms; others have lower abdominal pain, low back pain, nausea, fever, pain during intercourse, or bleeding between menstrual periods.

Chlamydia can be cured by a dose of antibiotics prescribed by the doctor. Care should however be taken not to abuse these medications as resistance to them can occur. Treatment of all the partners is vital to eliminate the disease completely and also retest to make sure there is no reinfection. Abstinence from sex until treatment is complete prevents further spreading. Having multiple infections increases a woman’s risk of infertility

The most common test to detect chlamydia infection in women involves taking a swab from the cervix during a speculum exam and the swab is tested for chlamydia DNA. The problem with this test is that it does not tell the physician how long the infection has been present or how severe the infection is and whether the woman with the infection has sustained tubal damage. The swab test can also miss an infection that has moved up into the uterus or tubes and is no longer in the cervix.

Blood tests can also be performed to detect the antibodies the body makes when exposed to the Chlamydia bacteria. These blood test are fairly predictive for finding women with tubal damage during laparoscopy. These tests are not so reliable thus ‘PREVENTION IS BETTER THAN CURE’

ART is available but very expensive thus not accessible to everyone. Therefore, it is better to keep your tubes open and prevent infection by abstaining from sex, practicing safe methods of sex, being faithful to one partner and getting treatment early.

CHLAMYDIA CAN BE INVISIBLE BUT THE CONSEQUENCES CAN BE CATASTROPHIC.

 

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