You can begin protecting your fertility well before you are ready to start a family. Nutrition, a healthy lifestyle and decisions about sexual behavior influence a person’s ability to conceive a child and a woman’s ability have a safe delivery. In the ideal situation… You will be able to:
- Choose if and when you want to conceive a child
- Biologically conceive a child
- (For women) Deliver a healthy infant
Most people don’t realize that their reproductive health system is the most fragile system in the body. You need to know how to protect your future fertility. The decisions you make as a young person can affect your ability to have children later in life. By engaging in unprotected sex, you put yourself at risk for sexually transmitted infections (STIs). When STIs go untreated they can cause fertility problems, particularly in women.
What women need to know
STIs can have an impact on your ability to have children. When STIs go untreated they can cause fertility problems, particularly in women. For example:
Chlamydia and gonorrhea: Fifteen percent of all American women who are infertile can attribute it to tubal damage caused by pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). PID is an infection of the uterus, fallopian tubes and other reproductive organs. It often results from untreated STD/STIs, such as chlamydia and gonorrhea. PID can lead to serious consequences that affect a woman’s ability to have a baby, her experience during pregnancy and delivery, and the well being of her newborn.
Genital herpes: Herpes is not uncommon among women. It’s can be thought of as a skin infection of the mouth and/or genitals, and doesn’t usually have severe health consequences. The herpes virus stays in your body forever but doesn’t usually interfere with a woman’s ability to become pregnant. In rare circumstances, however, herpes infections can affect the well being of the newborn infant. For this reason women who are thinking about becoming pregnant or are already pregnant should talk with their doctors about protecting their baby.
HIV: It is recommended that all pregnant women get tested before their baby is born. While routine testing for all populations is important to prevent the spread of HIV, it is especially important for expectant mothers. HIV can be passed between a mother and child during labor, and later through breastfeeding. By testing in advance, women and their doctors can create plans to protect the well being of their unborn children. Through medical treatments during delivery and feeding practices thereafter, HIV positive pregnant women can have HIV negative children.
What you can do to protect yourself and your fertility:
- Use condoms correctly and consistently every time you have sex.
- Limit the number of sexual partners you have.
- Get an annual physical where you request annual chlamydia and gonorrhea screenings (strongly recommended for women 25 and under).
- Get tested and ask your sexual partners to get tested (before you start having sex!)
- Recognize when you are in an abusive relationship and know who to call.
There are many options available for preventing pregnancy, each with its own set of advantages and disadvantages. If you are sexually active and don’t want to get pregnant, you can explore the range of contraceptive choices available. You can download our birth control method comparison chart and print out a copy to bring to your healthcare provider, so your provider can help you make the choice that’s best for you.