About 1 in 5 people in the US have an STI (Sexually Transmitted Infection), which is about 68 million people, according to the 2018 CDC report. While sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) affect individuals of all ages, STDs take a particularly heavy toll on young people ages 15-24. If you are sexually active, getting tested for STDs is one of the most important things you can do to protect your health. At Foundations Resource Center, we offer free, confidential testing for two of the most common and treatable STIs: Chlamydia and Gonorrhea.
Chlamydia and Gonorrhea
Gonorrhea and chlamydia are two of the most common STIs. Chlamydia is known as the “silent disease” because most women don’t experience symptoms; however, 75 percent don’t feel symptoms with gonorrhea either. A woman with an undiagnosed and untreated STI is at risk for developing a severe complication called pelvic inflammatory disease (PID).
STIs and Abortion
The risk of developing PID increases even further when you undergo a surgical abortion with an untreated STI. If you have untreated chlamydia or gonorrhea, you’re up to 23 percent more likely to develop PID after an abortion. This happens because bacteria from outside your body can be transmitted into your reproductive tract. Additionally, bacteria already present near your vagina or cervix can be pushed higher into your reproductive organs during an abortion, leading to PID.
Often, women don’t have signs or symptoms, so they are unaware that they have PID. When symptoms do occur, they can range from mild to severe to life-threatening.
Symptoms of PID can include:
- Pain in the lower abdomen or pelvis
- Fever (100.4° F or higher)
- Increased vaginal discharge that may be odorous
- Pain during sex
- Painful and frequent urination
- Irregular menstrual cycles
- Spotting in-between periods
- Pain in the upper right abdomen caused by stomach or liver inflammation
PID can result in devastating consequences, including:
- Infertility: inability to get pregnant due to scarring in fallopian tubes
- Future pregnancy complications, including ectopic pregnancy
- Chronic pelvic pain and abdominal pain caused by scarring
- A life-threatening blood infection
- An abscess around fallopian tubes or ovaries, which can be fatal if ruptured
How To Prevent PID
STIs don’t always cause PID, but there are ways to prevent it when STIs are the cause. You can reduce your risk by staying in one monogamous relationship. Your chances of contracting an STI multiply rapidly with each additional partner, even if you have one monogamous partner after another. So it’s best to have just one faithful partner. As uncomfortable as the conversation can be, it’s best for both of you to get tested and discuss your results before having sex.
According to the CDC guidelines, a primary preventive measure is to get STI testing. The CDC recommends that all women younger than 25 who are sexually active should be tested yearly for gonorrhea and chlamydia.
Women over 25 with certain risk factors should also get tested yearly for gonorrhea and chlamydia. Risk factors include a new sex partner, multiple sex partners, or a partner who had an STI.
STI testing and treatment are particularly vital before an abortion to prevent PID and its potential long-term effects.
Pregnancy & STIs
Pregnant women can become infected with the same STIs as women who are not pregnant. The results of an STI can be more serious, even life-threatening, for you and your baby if you become infected while pregnant. It is important that you are aware of the harmful effects of STIs and how to protect yourself and your unborn baby against infection. If you are diagnosed with an STI while pregnant, your sex partner(s) should also be tested and treated.
How can STIs affect My Unborn Baby And Me?
STIs can complicate your pregnancy and may seriously affect you and your developing baby. Some of these problems may be seen at birth; others may not be discovered until months or years later. In addition, it is well known that infection with an STI can make it easier for a person to get infected with HIV. Most of these problems can be prevented if you receive regular medical care during pregnancy. This includes testing and treating STIs starting early in pregnancy and repeated close to delivery, as needed.
Should I be tested for STIs during my pregnancy?
Yes. Testing and treating pregnant women for STDs is a vital way to prevent serious health complications to both mother and baby that may otherwise happen with infection. The sooner you begin receiving medical care during pregnancy, the better the health outcomes will be for you and your unborn baby. It is also important to have an open and honest conversation with your provider and discuss any symptoms you are experiencing and any high-risk sexual behavior you engage in. Even if you have been tested in the past, you should be tested again when you become pregnant.
Where can I get help?
Whether you’re pregnant or not, Foundations Resource Center will provide any at-risk woman with free and confidential STI testing.
*We are only testing females at this time, but we will be glad to discuss testing and treatment options for male partners.
If you think you’re unexpectedly pregnant or have had a positive at-home pregnancy test, your first step is to verify your pregnancy through a medical-grade pregnancy test. If your pregnancy test is positive, then your pregnancy needs to be confirmed by ultrasound.
Once your pregnancy is confirmed, it’s crucial to get tested for STIs, whether you decide to carry your pregnancy or have an abortion. The good news is that chlamydia and gonorrhea are treatable with antibiotics.