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Cape May County, NJ
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What are Teens Asking about Sex?

Can STDs lead to sterility?
(female, age 15)

Both bacterial STIs, gonorrhea and chlamydia can lead to sterility.  However, chlamydia is far more serious as it has risen to become the most common bacterial STI infecting about 30-40 percent of sexually active teens and its sterility rate is double that of gonorrhea.

The vast majority of females, 85 percent, do not show any symptoms and often do not know that they are infected until they try to get pregnant or develop Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID), which causes abdominal pain, fever, and permanently damages the reproductive tract.  The resulting fallopian tube scarring can cause infertility and increases the risks for tubal pregnancies.  A single episode of PID from a chlamydia infection causes a 25 percent chance of sterility and a second episode increases sterility chances to 50 percent.  Left untreated the resulting pelvic infection could require the removal of the reproductive organs and even cause death. Chlamydia can pass from the mother to child during the time of delivery causing corneal scarring and pneumonia.
In males chlamydia can cause infertile sperm, but this condition is usually reversible with antibiotics. About 60 percent of males will experience symptoms similar, but less severe than those caused by gonorrhea, including a discharge from the penis, a burning sensation while urinating, and tenderness and pain in the testicles so they can get the antibiotic treatment before any permanent damage occurs.

Although chlamydia is curable with antibiotics like tetracycline, the resultant reproductive tract scarring is permanent. Female teenagers have the highest risks of infection because their cervical cells are immature and they do not respond as well as adults to the antibiotic treatment for PID.  Condoms do not offer any significant protection against chlamydia and treatment does not provide a permanent cure. Studies have connected chlamydia to cancer, arthritis, and arteriosclerosis. The best way to avoid chlamydia and gonorrhea is to practice abstinence before marriage. Individuals who are or have been previously sexually active, should be tested for STIs and return to an abstinent lifestyle (“secondary virginity”).

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