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.

Here’s why:

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

References:
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

7 comments

  1. Catherine Wood, Ohio - reply

    Dear Dr. Grossman: I have been sharing the truth about Chlamydia ever since you came to Sunbury, Ohio (close to Columbus) to do a seminar for us. You rock!! Thanks for a great site!!! Catherine Wood

  2. Em - reply

    Can you only get it by having intercourse with someone?

  3. MiriamGrossman - reply

    Yes, vaginal intercourse, as well as oral or anal sex.

  4. Christina - reply

    Thanks for speaking out on this issue, and providing real information.

    As a patient, I have observed that this blasé attitude toward infertility risk seems to pervade women’s health care, even with non-preventable issues, such as treating endometriosis. Instead of seeking to prevent damage, the general attitude seems to be “big deal, she can always get IVF or something later”. Never mind her health, her plans, her ability to pay for expensive procedures, or any personal objections she may have to artificial fertility treatments.

    We women need to know how to take care of ourselves, even when our schools and the medical establishment refuse to help.

  5. T. Masters - reply

    IVF is not moral. There are multiple embryos created who are little people. When they are not implanted in the uterus, these little people can be sold and exploited for research and used of their body parts. The Creighton method of natural family planning can help women achieve pregnancies even though the women are having difficulty getting pregnant or maintaining pregnancies. The website http://www.popepaulvi.com uses Napro technology which is morally acceptable and has high success rates in achieving pregnancy. Check out the website. God bless you.

  6. Debra Faris - reply

    Thank you for being couregous and really caring aobut our youth.
    How can we invite you to speak at our church?
    Debra Faris

    • MiriamGrossman - reply

      Hi Debra,
      I’d love to come speak for you. Please provide details in an email, send to MiriamGrossmanMD@hotmail.com
      Please provide location, dates, etc.
      Thank You.

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