November 3, 2012
Chlamydia: What You Haven’t Heard
Chlamydia, the most common bacterial STD, is one nasty bug. While it can cause some problems in men, it’s particularly bad news for girls and women. Chlamydia travels quietly, undetected, from the vagina, through the uterus, and into the fallopian tubes, where it wreaks havoc.
The fallopian tubes carry the egg after it’s released from the ovary. This is the place where sperm meets egg and fertilization occurs.
Chlamydia causes swelling and inflammation in the tubes, which are incredibly narrow. The passageway is only about one millimeter wide – the thickness of a dime. That’s important, because a narrow tube is easily blocked. Even a small infection that goes unnoticed can cause scars that block the fallopian tubes.
A blocked tube has dire effects on female fertility. It can also cause ectopic pregnancy – a life threatening medical emergency.
That said, here’s something that’s bothered me a long time:
Medical authorities and sex educators reassure women that Chlamydia is easily treated. Get tested, take your antibiotics, get retested a few months later, and you’ll be fine. It’s only untreated Chlamydia, they claim, that’s dangerous.
This is the message, almost everywhere you look: Mayoclinic.com, Columbia University’s GoAskAlice, even the government’s CDC website.
But I can’t understand how these, and so many other highly reputable sources, can make this claim. Treatment of Chlamydia is not so simple. Even if a woman follows the guidelines, she may still be in for trouble.
- To prevent damage, Chlamydia must be eradicated before it reaches the tubes. The problem is, we don’t know how long that takes. We don’t know if it takes days, weeks or months.
In most cases, the infection is silent; there’s no discharge, fever or pain. Suppose a woman goes in for her yearly women’s health visit. She tests positive for Chlamydia, so she’s given antibiotics. But what if it’s too late? It’s possible she was infected many months earlier; her tubes could already be damaged. The antibiotics won’t fix that.
- Even if Chlamydia is treated early enough, and her tubes are wide open, she could still face problems. Due to an immune reaction, infection with Chlamydia can cause premature delivery, and possibly miscarriage, years down the line.
These are indisputable facts that women need to know. They need to know them before it’s too late, before they’re suffering from infertility or mourning a miscarriage.
Yet the groups who call themselves “comprehensive” sex educators, who claim to provide science-based, up-to-date information, fail to include this medical information. They say: get tested, take these pills, and you’re out of the woods.
Bottom line: Men and women are different, especially when it comes to STDs. Female biology is incredibly complex and sensitive. It is easily disturbed, and hard to repair. Why are the perils of Chlamydia whitewashed, and women given a false sense of security? I just don’t get it.
Role of Chlamydia trachomatis in Miscarriage
David Baud et al, Emerging Infectious Diseases • www.cdc.gov/eid • Vol. 17, No. 9, September 2011 p1630-1635