Sexually transmitted infections, or STI’s, are on the rise in Ohio and nationwide. Formerly referred to as STD’s (sexually transmitted diseases), STI’s are often a topic that goes undiscussed and swept under the table. With rates on the rise, it’s more likely than ever that ladies in Ohio are being affected. Because these infections can impact our long term reproductive health, it’s time we start talking about them!
There are three types of sexually transmitted infections: viral, parasitic, and bacterial infections. The CDC does keep record of all three categories of infections, however there is a push to recognize and treat those in the bacterial group. For the purposes of this article we will focus on the bacterial class and how they can impact women’s health.
Let’s take a closer look at the facts:
Gonorrhea, chlamydia, and syphilis are examples of bacterial STI’s. These are among the infections the CDC closely tracks and reports on. It is this category that has seen a rise in cases over the last few years. While bacterial infections are easily treated with antibiotic therapy, many people are not receiving timely treatment. Bacterial STI’s do not always yield symptoms, which is why they commonly go undetected and spread more rampantly.
Bacterial STI Symptoms
When symptoms of bacterial STI’s are present, they often include pain in the lower abdomen or vagina, vaginal discharge, painful and/or frequent urination, eye pain and discharge, irregular menstruation, sore throat, and in the case of syphilis sores and body rash.
Screening For Bacterial STI’s
Screening for this category of infections is frequently done with a urine specimen, or a cervical or urethral swab. Most clinics and healthcare providers will test women under 25 who are sexually active, as well as women above age 25 who are at high risk (having multiple partners or an infected partner).
Treatment For Bacterial STI’s
Treatment consists of oral antibiotics and is generally inexpensive and widely available. Detection, not treatment, is really where the gap between infection and cure lies. This is why testing remains so important.
National Rates For Bacterial STI’s
Nationally the CDC is reporting chlamydia to be the most rampant bacterial STI with approximately 1.6 million reported cases. Gonorrhea comes second with 469,000 known cases, and third is syphilis with 28,000 cases. The incidence of all three of these infections has increased anywhere from 5% – 19%.
Bacterial STI’s In Ohio
The Ohio Department of Health is reporting similar trends with reported cases of chlamydia being 61,000, gonorrhea at 21,000 cases, and syphilis at around 700 cases. In fact, Ohio has been moved in rank from 15th, up to 14th, for number of cases of reported bacterial infections per state.
Untreated Bacterial STI’s
The number of bacterial STI’s are increasing quickly, spurring a greater push for education and screening. Risks associated with untreated bacterial infections can be serious and include pelvic inflammatory disease, infertility, ectopic pregnancy, birth defects, stillborn infants, cancer, increased risk of HIV transmission, and death. The longer the infection is present, the more opportunity it has to spread, potentially resulting in the aforementioned complications.
STI’s And Pregnancy
Some STI’s have the ability to be transferred during pregnancy to the infant by blood or through exposure to the infection at the time of delivery. The effects of infection on the neonate can range from blindness to infant mortality. Early detection and treatment are of utmost importance.
STI’s And Abortion
When considering an abortion, it is appropriate at this time also, to rule out the presence of a bacterial infection. Abortion, both by means of ‘the pill’ and surgical procedure, causes the cervix to dilate and drastically increases the chance that bacteria will travel into the uterus and cause a pelvic inflammatory response. The spread of infection into the uterus and pelvic organs can be very painful, and the resulting scar tissue can lead to a lifetime of reproductive issues, including infertility. Not all clinics will screen for bacterial infections. With the risks clear, it is important to find a clinic that prioritizes your health and tests for STI’s before performing an abortion.
With an overall increase in many STI’s being reported in Ohio and nationwide, prevention and early detection are of paramount importance. If you think you could be pregnant and would like to learn more about how STI’s impact pregnancy and pregnancy termination, as well as to start the STI screening process, call Bella Women’s Center for an appointment today!