What Type of Infections Cause Infertility?
Infections come in many different forms. They can be mild or serious. Did you know that some types of infections can cause infertility or increase the risk for miscarriage? Stay tuned and I will explain Infections are caused by microorganisms.
There are four categories: Bacteria, viruses, fungi and protozoa. Bacterial infections are the most common cause for infertility.
The most common infertility causing infection is caused by bacteria called Chlamydia. In the United States, about 1.5 million people will be diagnosed with chlamydia each year.
The real number of infections, however, is much higher. Because, in most cases, infection with chlamydia does not cause any symptoms, many infections are missed and therefore not treated. Chlamydia is transmitted through sexual intercourse.
The bacteria can move from the vagina through the cervix and uterus into the fallopian tubes. In the fallopian tubes, it can cause inflammation which can result in the fallopian tubes becoming blocked – which is an obvious cause for infertility.
However, chlamydia can also damage the fallopian tubes so that even if the tubes are not blocked, they do not function properly. This leads to infertility and tubal pregnancies.
Another bacterium which causes infertility is gonorrhea. Like chlamydia, gonorrhea is passed on through sex and can cause damage to the fallopian tubes so they don’t function properly or cause blockage.
Unlike chlamydia, infection with gonorrhea will frequently cause symptoms such as pelvic pain and fever.
Both chlamydia and gonorrhea can also ENTER THE ABDOMEN from the fallopian tubes and cause scar tissue. Scar tissue can also make it more difficult to become pregnant if it interferes with the ability of the fallopian tube to capture an egg at the time of ovulation.
A current infection with chlamydia or gonorrhea can be diagnosed by placing a swab into the cervix, extracting some cervical mucus and testing for the bacterial DNA. If you have a current infection, it can and should be treated with antibiotics even if you don’t have any symptoms.
A past infection can be identified with a blood test to determine if antibodies to the bacteria are present. With a past infection, the bacteria may already be cleared from the body so antibiotics won’t help. Testing should be done to look for tubal blockage and scar tissue.
Outside of the US, the bacteria that cause tuberculosis in the lungs can also infect the uterus and fallopian tubes causing inflammation, damage and obstruction.
Tuberculosis can be diagnosed with a skin test or a blood test. These tests, however, are unable to show whether the infection is just in the lungs or has spread to the pelvis.
TB in the uterus can often be identified with a biopsy of the uterine lining. Pelvic tuberculosis can also be diagnosed with a laparoscopy.
Treatment of TB is also accomplished with antibiotics but is more difficult since many strains of TB are now resistant to antibiotics and can take months of treatment.
Over the years, there has been research about other types of bacteria such as mycoplasma and ureaplasma. Although some evidence suggests these bacteria may play a role in causing infertility, the evidence is weak.
Testing and treatment for these bacteria are should be handled by an experienced fertility expert.
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FAQ: What about yeast infections? Can yeast infections cause infertility?
First of all, yeast infections are not really infections at all. A normal, healthy vagina contains a variety of different bacteria and yeast as well. Normally, these two microorganisms maintain a sort of balance with each other. Sometimes, the levels of yeast and bacteria can change.
For example, using antibiotics can reduce the levels of bacteria, allowing yeast to grow more rapidly. When the levels of yeast are higher for any reason, this may cause symptoms such as vaginal itching, burning, redness and discharge.
This can be serious enough to require people to use treatments to lower the levels of yeast. Yeast infections do not cause infertility, however, if the symptoms are bad enough, have intercourse can be painful, so yeast might indirectly lower the chance for pregnancy by lowering the frequency of sex.
The most common sexually transmitted viral infection is caused by the human papilloma virus or HPV. HPV is well known to infect the cells of the cervix. Some types of HPV can cause cervical cancer.
For this reason, it is extremely important for people to receive the HPV vaccine BEFORE they are sexually active — to prevent cancer.
PAP smears are used to identify people that have cancer or pre-cancerous cells in their cervix. At the time of a PAP smear, your doctor can also perform DNA testing to look for those types of HPV which cause cancer.
There is no good evidence however, that HPV infection makes it more difficult to become pregnant.
The second most common sexually transmitted viral faction is herpes. Herpes infection does not damage the fallopian tube or cause scar tissue. Herpes can, however, because painful blisters which can cause people to avoid sexual intercourse during an outbreak.
If this happens at the time of ovulation, this can interfere with attempts to conceive. There are medications to reduce the frequency of herpes outbreaks which may allow people more flexibility when trying to conceive.
When it comes to infertility, the type of infections that are the biggest problem are bacterial infections. Other infections are only important if they interfere with people being able to have sex at the time of ovulation.