Chlamydia Prevention & Risks

Reviewed by Ruthann Cunningham, MD, May 23, 2017

Men and women can get chlamydia by having vaginal sex, anal sex, or (less commonly) oral sex. The bacteria that causes chlamydia attacks the moist mucous membranes it comes in contact with including inside the penis, vagina, rectum (anus), throat and eyelids. It's also possible for a mother to spread chlamydia to her baby during delivery, causing pneumonia or a serious eye infection.

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How can I prevent getting or spreading chlamydia?

Abstaining from sex is the only way to be 100% safe from getting or spreading any STD, including chlamydia. If you are sexually active, a latex condom is the best way to protect yourself and your partner. The best way for women to decrease their chance of infection when having sex with other women is to properly use a latex dental dam.

What are the complications of untreated chlamydia?

If untreated, chlamydia infections can result in reproductive problems and other health complications for both men and women. According to the CDC, 4 out of 10 women with untreated chlamydia get pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). PID is an infection that attacks the uterus and fallopian tubes, possibly leading to infertility or life-threatening ectopic pregnancies. It's estimated that 100,000 women become infertile each year due to PID.

Untreated chlamydia infections may result in the need for hospitalization and intravenous (IV) antibiotics to treat the advanced infection. It's estimated that 75% of women with chlamydia don't know they have it. This is why getting a chlamydia test is so important. In more rare cases, untreated chlamydia can lead to chronic pelvic pain or cystitis (inflammation of the urinary bladder).

Untreated chlamydia in men can also result in complications.

While rare, untreated chlamydia can lead to the infection spreading to other parts of the penis, prostate, and testicles causing pain and inflammation. And in even more rare cases the infection can spread to the epididymis (tube that carries sperm from the testes), causing pain, fever, and sterility.

If you have chlamydia, tell your partner(s).

Chlamydia is contagious. If you have chlamydia, then chances are your sexual partner may as well. Since tests can’t evaluate how long you've been infected, you should tell anyone you've recently had sexual contact with that you have been diagnosed so they can get tested too. The CDC recommends that men and women with chlamydia inform anyone they've had sex with 60 days prior to their diagnosis. Other health agencies suggest you tell partners going back as many as 6 months or longer, since chlamydia can to undetected for a long time.

All pregnant women should be tested for chlamydia.

According to the CDC, chlamydia is the leading cause of prenatal (before baby's birth) pneumonia and conjunctivitis (pink eye) in newborns according to the CDC. These problem can lead to infant mortality (death) or blindness. Chlamydia can also be passed from mother to baby at birth.

HIV and chlamydia

Women with chlamydia have a greater chance of getting HIV. Some studies have shown that women with chlamydia are 5 times more likely to get HIV.

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