Chlamydia is a common STD that can infect both men and women. It can cause serious, permanent damage to a woman’s reproductive system. This can make it difficult or impossible for her to get pregnant later on. Chlamydia can also cause a potentially fatal ectopic pregnancy (pregnancy that occurs outside the womb).
Chlamydia is a common sexually transmitted disease (STD) caused by the bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis, which can damage a woman’s reproductive organs. Even though symptoms of chlamydia are usually mild or absent, serious complications that cause irreversible damage, including infertility, can occur silently before a woman ever recognizes a problem. Chlamydia also can cause discharge from the penis of an infected man.
How is chlamydia spread?
You can get chlamydia by having vaginal, anal, or oral sex with someone who has chlamydia. If your sex partner is male you can still get chlamydia even if he does not ejaculate (cum). If you’ve had chlamydia and were treated in the past, you can still get infected again. This can happen if you have unprotected sex with someone who has chlamydia. If you are pregnant, you can give chlamydia to your baby during childbirth.
What causes chlamydia?
It’s caused by bacteria (tiny, living cells) called Chlamydia trachomatis. They can live in the uterus (womb), vagina and cervix (entrance to the womb), the urethra (tube where urine comes out), the rectum (back passage), and sometimes the throat and eyes. Anyone who’s sexually active can get it and pass it on. You don’t need to have lots of sexual partners.
What are the signs and symptoms of chlamydia?
Chlamydia is known as a ‘silent’ infection because most infected people have no symptoms. If symptoms do occur, they may not appear until several weeks after exposure. Even when it causes no symptoms, chlamydia can damage a woman’s reproductive organs.
In women, the bacteria first infect the cervix and/or the urethra. Some infected women have an abnormal vaginal discharge or a burning sensation when urinating. Untreated infections can spread upward to the uterus and fallopian tubes, causing pelvic inflammatory disease (PID).
PID can be silent, or can cause symptoms such as abdominal and pelvic pain. Even if PID causes no symptoms initially, it can lead to infertility and other complications later on. Some infected men have discharge from their penis or a burning sensation when urinating. Pain and swelling in one or both testicles (known as “epididymitis”) may also occur, but is less common.
Chlamydia can also infect the rectum in men and women, either through receptive anal sex, or possibly via spread from the cervix and vagina. While these infections often cause no symptoms, they can cause rectal pain, discharge, and/or bleeding (known as “proctitis”).
I’m pregnant. How does chlamydia affect my baby?
If you are pregnant and have chlamydia, you can pass the infection to your baby during delivery. This could cause an eye infection or pneumonia in your newborn. Having chlamydia may also make it more likely to deliver your baby too early. If you are pregnant, you should get tested for chlamydia at your first prenatal visit. Testing and treatment are the best ways to prevent health problems.
How is chlamydia treated?
Chlamydia can be easily treated and cured with antibiotics. A single dose of azithromycin or a week of doxycycline (twice daily) are the most commonly used treatments. All sex partners should be evaluated, tested, and treated. Persons with chlamydia should abstain from sexual intercourse until they and their sex partners have completed treatment, otherwise re-infection is possible. Women whose sex partners have not been appropriately treated are at high risk for re-infection. Having multiple infections increases a woman’s risk of serious reproductive health complications, including infertility.
I was treated for chlamydia. When can I have sex again?
You should not have sex again until you and your sex partner(s) have completed treatment. If your doctor prescribes a single dose of medication, you should wait seven days after taking the medicine before having sex. If your doctor prescribes a medicine for you to take for seven days, you should wait until you have taken all of the doses before having sex.