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What Do Chlamydia Antibodies Have to Do with Fertility?
a blog by Gina Paoletti-Falcone, RN, BSN, November 8, 2010
Chlamydia is the most frequently reported bacterial sexually transmitted disease (STD), according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Because most people with chlamydia have no symptoms and aren’t tested, the numbers are estimated to be substantially higher than reported.
Chlamydia Carries Risks for Fertility
Without treatment, chlamydia infection carries up to a 30 percent risk of spreading up through the uterus and fallopian tubes, resulting in pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). This inflammation carries a 20 percent risk of scarring and blocking the fallopian tubes, a major cause of infertility.
Any sexually active person can be infected with chlamydia, but a teenage girl or young woman is most susceptible because her cervix has not fully matured. Chlamydia can also be transmitted through oral and anal sex, and the more sexual partners a woman has, the greater the risk. The CDC recommends that all sexually active women 25 years and younger be screened at least annually for the STD.
Testing for Antibodies as Part of a Fertility Workup
Many physicians include testing for chlamydia antibodies as part of a fertility workup. The antibodies indicate that the woman has had a previous infection. New research presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) supports making that simple blood test routine.
Martin Keltz, MD, from St. Luke’s Roosevelt Hospital Center in New York City reported that women who were positive for chlamydia antibodies were about half as likely to get pregnant without IVF as women who were negative for the antibodies. He found that 5.5 percent of the 1,279 new fertility patients screened over 2.5 years had positive chlamydia antibodies.
A previous study from Finland also showed that patients who are positive for chlamydia antibodies are less likely to have spontaneous pregnancies. The good news is that overall IVF pregnancy rates in chlamydia positive women do not differ from patients who have no antibodies.
Getting tested for chlamydia antibodies is simple. Knowing that you have antibodies could help you make the right decision in terms of treatment. Knowing whether you are positive or not may also help you when weighing the decision whether to continue trying to conceive on your own vs. seeing a fertility specialist to discuss IVF or IUI.
The current study suggests that if you are positive for the antibodies, your best chance is with IVF.