Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Prevent Infertility? Screen for STDs

Octo-Mom placed the challenges posed by infertility treatments squarely in the public eye, but in this and other discussions of infertility and its treatment, I never remember anyone mentioning that some infertility can actually be prevented.

It turns out that various infections, with chlamydia being the most common especially in young women, can progress to pelvic inflammatory disease which, untreated, can result in infertility and other serious reproductive tract problems. In pregnant women, chlamydia infections may be passed to the newborn. Surprised? I was.

And more alarming, by the time they reach 25, 1 in 2 young people will contract an STD and most will not know it. Chlamydia and other infections can be detected by a simple, non-invasive urine test and treated with an antibiotic. Yet this year, the rates of chlamydia infection continued to climb to record highs according to the CDC.

So why aren’t all sexually active young women routinely receiving this evidence-based preventive medical care? Public awareness is low and some young women incorrectly assume that they are tested for STDs whenever they receive a Pap test. Healthcare providers face barriers from lack of reimbursement for screening tests (as opposed to testing a patient with symptoms), to misperceptions that “my patients” aren’t the type to get this infection, to concerns about being able to confidentially treat a young person whose medical coverage is in a parent’s name.

Partnership for Prevention, working closely with CDC, has convened key groups interested in improving screening rates into the National Chlamydia Coalition and has developed a guide for healthcare providers to make screening a routine part of medical care. Read more at


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