Sexual Health

Prevention starts with you

Preventive care is the one important health practice that can help you live a longer and healthier life. In this resource you will learn about how to avoid getting infected with chlamydia, how to be tested, and the complications caused by the disease. In a nutshell, there are steps you can take to help stop the spread of this highly contagious infection:

  • Get tested: If you are sexually active, get tested annually through your primary care provider (PCP) or gynecologist.

  • Use condoms: Latex condoms can greatly reduce the risk of chlamydia. Always use protection, especially with a new partner.

  • Seek treatment: Chlamydia is easily cured with antibiotics. If you are infected, tell your partner and seek immediate treatment through your doctor.

Whether or not you are in a com mitted relationship, it’s wise to get tested. For your own health, schedule an appointment with your doctor

Most who have it don’t know it

Chlamydia is a sexually transmitted disease (STD) caused by a bacteria that can infect both men and women. Often, someone infected with chlamydia will have no symptoms. Women who do may notice an abnormal vaginal discharge or burning sensation when they urinate, and this may not show up for several weeks after having sex with an infected partner. When left untreated, chlamydia infections can lead to infertility in women along with other complications.

young woman looking at her work with colleague


How do I know if I have it?

The only way to know if you have been infected with chlamydia is to get tested with a urine sample, and/or your doctor may use a cotton swab to get a sample from your vaginal lining. The lab facility will usually provide the results to your doctor within one to two weeks.

Who should get tested?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends annual testing for sexually active women age 25 and younger, pregnant women and women over the age of 25 who have multiple partners or a new partner.

How do I reduce my risks?

The only way to avoid being infected is to avoid having vaginal, oral or anal sex. If you do have sex, you can lower your risks by:

  • Having only one partner with whom you are in a long-term monogamous relationship

  • Ensuring your partner has been tested and is free of infections

  • Using latex condoms correctly and every time you have sex

Talk with your doctor.

Ask if you should be tested. Your doctor has had these types of conversations before so don’t be shy about bringing it up.

doctor talking with female patient


Complications due to infection

Why is getting tested so important?

Chlamydia is especially harmful to a woman’s reproductive organs and can have long-term effects, particularly for those who are in their reproductive years. Fortunately, the cure for chlamydia is treatment with antibiotics. That’s why being tested is so important since testing detects the infection and, once detected, treatment can be started sooner rather than later.

Cervicitis:

An inflammation of the cervix, cervicitis can lead to complications such as pelvic inflammatory disease, ectopic pregnancy and complications during pregnancy when left untreated.

Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID):

Chlamydia is one of the main causes of PID, where a woman’s reproductive organs, such as the ovaries, uterus and fallopian tubes become infected. When left untreated, PID can lead to infertility

Ectopic Pregnancy:

A potentially life-threatening issue, an ectopic pregnancy can occur when the chlamydial infection spreads to the fallopian tubes and causes inflammation. This can cause a blockage, which may prevent the egg from reaching the uterus. Instead, the egg implants itself in the tube. As the egg grows, the tube stretches and can rupture, resulting in an emergency and possibly life-threatening situation.

Chlamydia and Pregnancy

A chlamydia infection during pregnancy can result in preterm labor causing a baby to be born too early. As the baby enters the birth channel, there is also risk for the eyes and lungs becoming infected. Protect your baby and yourself; use precautions and get tested during your pregnancy


Talk about it with your partner

Whether or not you have had an infection, one of the most important conversations you can have with your partner is an open and honest talk about STDs. Yes, it can be awkward and a bit scary but this conversation is important to your own personal health as well as your partner’s health.

How do I talk to my partner about getting tested for chlamydia and other STDs?

Talking about chlamydia with your partner can be difficult. Some people are embarrassed. Some are worried about how their partners will react. And others are just plain uncomfortable talking about it. However, this shouldn’t stop you from talking with your partner about chlamydia. Many times, thinking about the conversation is more stressful than actually having it!

  • If your partner hasn’t been tested since his last sexual relationship or doesn't know if he has any STDs, you could ask him to get tested. You could suggest that you get tested together.
  • Another way to start the conversation is to tell your partner that you chose to get tested for STDs. You could be upfront and let him know that your health and relationship are important to you.
  • Remember that the reason for talking is to help you feel safer about your sex life. Try not to feel hurt or jealous when you learn about his sexual history. Likewise, if your partner gets hurt or jealous, remind him that you’re only bringing this up because you care about your health and relationship.
  • If your partner tells you about a past STD diagnosis, don’t accuse or insult him. He is sharing the information you asked for. Try to be sensitive and recognize that it takes courage and strength to talk about this.
  • If your partner refuses to talk about his sexual history or to get tested, you may want to rethink your relationship and whether you want to have sex with him. 
If I have chlamydia, what does that mean for my partner?

If you have chlamydia, there’s a good chance your partner has chlamydia too. So you need to tell your current and recent sex partners, so he can get tested and treated too.

If your partner is infected and doesn’t get treated, you very likely will get chlamydia again if you’re still having sex. That’s another reason why you need to tell your partner if you have chlamydia.

How do I tell my partner I have chlamydia?

Here are some tips from the CDC for telling your partner you have chlamydia:

  • Learn about chlamydia before you talk to your partner. It might help to look at information online to help you explain it.
  • Choose a good time to talk to your partner, and do it in a quiet, private place.
  • Stay calm. There is a chance that your partner may react with shock, denial or anger. Try not to get upset, to keep the conversation from getting out of hand.
  • Remember that chlamydia can last a long time. Either you or your partner could’ve had it many months before your relationship, without even knowing it.
  • Help your partner understand that he may have chlamydia too. It may not be possible to know if he had it first or if you did.
  • Allow your partner to ask questions. Answer them as best you can.
  • End the conversation if it gets out of hand. Tell your partner you would like to talk more at another time.

Helpful resources:

Chlamydia Fact Sheet | cdc.gov
 
Chlamydia Fact Sheet | womenshealth.gov
 
STD Testing: Conversation Starters | healthfinder.gov