Careful monitoring of your reproductive health remains vitally important because no matter how cautious you are with your sexual health, you or your partner could unknowingly have an STI/STD. Referred to as a sexually transmitted infection (STI) or a sexually transmitted disease (STD), any sexual activity can put you at risk of developing an infection caused by bacteria, a virus, a fungus, or a parasite.
In the early stages, STI/STD symptoms can range from genital sores to frequent urination, but unfortunately many individuals may not present with any symptoms (also known as asymptomatic). Currently the CDC reports that 1 in 5 people in the United States have an STI but predict that the numbers may be even higher as not everyone is regularly screened.
Even though individuals may be asymptomatic, STI/STDs still pose threats to your current and future wellbeing. Without proper treatment, an untreated STI/STD can greatly affect the health of your reproductive system.
A woman’s reproductive system comprises of her vaginal canal, cervix, uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries. Each of these structures plays a vital role in a woman’s overall health, as well as her ability to become pregnant and to have children. Often, STI/STDs begin in the vaginal canal, and when left untreated, they spread into the other structures, causing inflammation (the body’s attempt to protect against infection), damage, and potential scarring.
In many cases, the spreading of an STI/STD may cause a secondary infection called Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (or PID). When untreated, PID can cause long-term severe pelvic pain and form scar tissue. The scarring often causes a blockage in the fallopian tube that could prevent an egg from being properly fertilized in pregnancy. Therefore, one in ten women with PID become infertile.  (Infertility refers to the inability to get pregnant after 12 months of regular, unprotected sex.) 
Of all women who develop PID, 15% were diagnosed with untreated Chlamydia and 20% were diagnosed with untreated Gonorrhea. A variety of other general bacterial infections transmitted by sex increase a woman’s risk for PID. PID can also cause adhesions in the uterus, damage ovaries, and cause irreversible scarring to all reproductive structures. 
When untreated, other STI/STDs can also have detrimental effects on a woman’s reproductive system. For example, HPV may cause the cells in a cervix to change over time and could lead to cancer. Or bacterial vaginosis and trichomoniasis may simply increase the risk of contracting other STI/STDs.
Because a woman or her partner may not present with any STI/STD symptoms, she may contract another STI/STD or a reoccurring STI/STD. Overall, recurrent, untreated STI/STD infections increase a woman’s long-term health risks, including infertility, cancer, and scarring of her reproductive system.  Therefore, women should be screened yearly to identify and to treat any possible STI/STDs. Thankfully, proper, timely medical treatment alleviates many of the long-term risks.
Protect your reproductive health and put your mind at ease by receiving an STI/STD test today! Although sharing about your sexual health may feel intimidating, our trained nurses will offer you non-judgmental, compassionate care for free. We want to equip you with the knowledge you need to take control of your health and equip you to be the healthiest you can be today, tomorrow, and into your future!