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What is the link between sexually transmitted diseases or sexually transmitted infections (STDs/STIs) and infertility?

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In most cases, STDs/STIs are linked to infertility primarily when they are left untreated.

For instance, chlamydia and gonorrhea are sexually transmitted bacterial infections that can be cured easily with antibiotics. Left untreated, 10% to 20% of chlamydial and gonorrheal infections in women can result in pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)—a condition that can cause long-term complications, such as chronic pelvic pain, ectopic pregnancy (pregnancy outside of the uterus), and infertility.1,2,3

Additionally, infections with gonorrhea and chlamydia may not cause symptoms and may go unnoticed. These undiagnosed and untreated infections can lead to severe health consequences, especially in women, causing permanent damage to reproductive organs.1,3,4

The Ccenters for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that these infections cause infertility in at least 24,000 women each year.2 Although infertility is less common among men, it does occur.3 More commonly, untreated chlamydia and gonorrhea infections in men may cause epididymitis, a painful infection in the tissue surrounding the testicles, or urethritis, an infection of the urinary canal in the penis, which causes painful urination and fever.5

Additional information on PID is available from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.


  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2010, September 14). Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs): Pelvic Inflammatory Disease. Retrieved June 6, 2012, from http://www.cdc.gov/std/PID [top]
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2009, November 16). 2008 Sexually Transmitted Diseases Surveillance. Sexually Transmitted Diseases in the United States, 2008. Retrieved June 3, 2012, from http://www.cdc.gov/std/stats08/trends.htm [top]
  3. Stamm, W. E. (2008). Chlamydia trachomatis infections of the adult. In G. Gross & S. K. Tyring (Eds.), Sexually transmitted diseases (4th ed., pp. 575–593). New York: McGraw Hill. [top]
  4. Hillis, S. D., & Wasserheit, J. N. (1996). Screening for chlamydia—A key to the prevention of pelvic inflammatory disease. New England Journal of Medicine, 334, 1399–1401. [top]
  5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2012, May 18). Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs): Gonorrhea. Retrieved June 6, 2012, from http://www.cdc.gov/std/gonorrhea [top]

Last Updated Date: 04/02/2013
Last Reviewed Date: 05/28/2013
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