April is an exciting month. For me, it's a reward for surviving the long New Hampshire winter. I'm now able to walk outside without wearing fifty layers of clothes, and I swear I'm starting to see the grass in my front yard once again. My 17 year-old neighbor has been looking forward to April for months, but it has nothing to do with the weather. April is prom season. I know from prior experience it's all about "the dress" and "the date". She has both. I had the privilege of helping her shop for "the dress", but I'm thankful my responsibilities end there. It's now her parent's turn to talk to her about "the date".
We all know the prom can sometimes include other activities besides dancing. Some teens will opt to become sexually active to varying degrees during this time of their lives. While that is a personal choice that hopefully will be guided by the teen's individual maturity level and belief systems, all teens should be made aware that April is STD Awareness Month . This is a great time to talk with the young men and women in your life about the importance of practicing safe sex, for a multitude of reasons, including preventing sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) which can be linked to infertility later on in life. The American Fertility Association is working hard to educate the public about infertility prevention.
There is a connection between sexually transmitted diseases and infertility. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 19 million new STDs and also STI's (sexually transmitted infections) occur each year, almost half of them among young people ages 15 to 24. It has also been reported that by the age of 24, one in three sexually active people will have one or more STIs, and over the course of a lifetime up to 75 percent of sexually active women and men will get an STI of some kind.
Dr. Jacqueline Gutmann with Reprodutive Medicine Associates of Philadelphia says, "STIs can also cause infertility, in part because they often display few, if any visible symptoms. Because women and men are frequently unaware that they have an STI, they do not to seek treatment, which further threatens their fertility."
Dr. Gutmann recently published a fact sheet for The AFA on the effect of STDs on infertility where she breaks down the disease for both men and women. In women, chlamydia and gonorrhea, as well as other bacteria, can cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), which is an infection that travels upward from the vagina through the cervix to the uterus and fallopian tubes. This infection can lead to scarring and blockage of the fallopian tubes. PID can occur in up to almost half of untreated chlamydia and gonorrhea infections. Over one million women each year seek treatment for PID in the United States; more than 100,000 women become infertile because of this disease, and the vast majority are unaware of the that it is happening.
In men, chlamydia and gonorrhea can travel upwards from the urethra all the way to the testicles. This can cause permanent sterility in men in a number of ways. The scarring from the infection can block the passage of sperm. In addition, injury to the testicles from an infection can interfere with sperm production and function. Approximately 15% of male infertility is from STIs.
Dr. Mark Trolice of Fertility C.A.R.E in Winter Park, Florida says, "If hypertension is considered the silent killer then acquiring an STIs, particularly Chlamydia trachomatis, should be considered the silent killer of reproduction because of its damaging effects to the fallopian tubes. Following an STI, ectopic pregnancy (a serious and life-threatening complication) increases from a baseline of 2% to 8%. The incidence of tubal factor infertility increases 7-fold, 16-fold, and 28-fold, following one, two, and three STIs to the fallopian tubes (salpingitis), respectively. Healthcare providers performing aggressive screening and prompt treatment of STIs may reduce the damage to reproductive potential."
The bottom line is, young men and women aren't thinking about preserving their fertility whether they're going to a prom, are starting freshman year at college or just entering the workforce, but they should. Dealing with infertility is an emotional and physical battle, and The AFA wants to help as many people as possible avoid such a fate.