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What Is Chlamydia? Frequently Asked Questions and Testing

Chlamydia is a common sexually transmitted disease that can cause infection in both men and women. It can cause permanent damage to the female reproductive system. This can make subsequent pregnancies difficult or impossible. Chlamydia can also cause potentially fatal ectopic pregnancies (pregnancies that occur outside the womb).

How is Chlamydia transmitted?

You can get chlamydia by having vaginal, anal or oral sex with someone who has chlamydia. A pregnant woman with chlamydia can infect her baby during childbirth.

How can I reduce my risk of chlamydia?

The only way to completely avoid STIs is to not have vaginal, anal or oral sex. If you are sexually active, the following things can reduce your chances of getting chlamydia:

  • be in a long-term mutually monogamous relationship with a partner who has been tested and does not have chlamydia
  • correct use of condoms at every sexual encounter

Am I at Risk of Chlamydia Infection?

Sexually active people can get chlamydia by having vaginal, anal or oral sex without a condom with a partner who has chlamydia.

Sexually active young people have a higher risk of chlamydia. This is due to behaviours and biological factors that are common among young people.

If you are sexually active, have an honest and frank discussion with your healthcare professional. Ask them if they should be tested for chlamydia or other STIs. If you are a sexually active woman, it is recommended to get tested for chlamydia every year.

How Can Chlamydia Affect My Child?

If you are pregnant and have chlamydia, you can pass the infection to your baby during childbirth. This can cause an eye infection or pneumonia in your child. Chlamydia can also make it more likely that your baby will be born prematurely.

If you are pregnant, you should be tested for chlamydia at your first antenatal visit. Consult your healthcare professional about the correct screening, testing and treatment. Testing and treatment are the best ways to prevent health problems.

How do I recognise a Chlamydia infection?

Chlamydia often has no symptoms, but can cause serious health problems even without symptoms. If you do develop symptoms, they may not appear until a few weeks after having sex with a partner who has chlamydia.

Even if chlamydia has no symptoms, it can damage the female reproductive system. Women with symptoms may notice:

  • abnormal vaginal discharge
  • burning sensation when peeing

Symptoms in men may include:

  • penile discharge
  • burning sensation when peeing
  • pain and swelling in one or both testicles (although this is less common)

Men and women can also get chlamydia in the rectum. This happens either through receptive anal sex or by spreading from another infected site (such as the vagina). Although these infections often do not cause symptoms, they can cause:

  • rectal pain
  • excretion too often
  • bleeding

If you notice any of these symptoms, see a doctor. You should also see a doctor if your partner has chlamydia or symptoms of chlamydia. Symptoms may include:

  • an unusual wound
  • unpleasant discharge
  • burning sensation when peeing
  • bleeding during menstruation

Why Get Tested?

The initial damage caused by chlamydia often goes unnoticed. However, chlamydia can cause serious health problems. It is therefore essential to get tested at the first sign of chlamydia.

In women, untreated chlamydia can cause pelvic inflammatory disease. Complications of late treatment of Chlamydia can include:

  • formation of scar tissue blocking the fallopian tubes
  • ectopic pregnancy (pregnancy outside the womb)
  • infertility (inability to conceive)
  • long-lasting pelvic/abdominal pain
  • men rarely have health problems due to chlamydia. The infection can cause fever and pain in the tubes attached to the testicles – in rare cases this can cause infertility
  • untreated chlamydia can also increase your chances of contracting HIV

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