Good question! For most teens, STDs are like cigarettes. You learn in school and in television ads that smoking can cause lung cancer. But that happens to other people who are much older. Then one day a favorite uncle is diagnosed and suddenly the risk is real.
The thing about STDs or STIs (sexually transmitted diseases or infections) is that it’s better to prevent them rather than treat them, and they ARE a BIG DEAL! Even with a bacterial infection, which is treatable, infection can reoccur with continued sexual activity, which increases your chances of becoming resistant to the treatment drug and increases the likelihood of permanent damage to the female reproductive system!
According to a new report from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), More than two million cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis were reported in the United States in 2016, the highest number ever.
Chlamydia is the most commonly reported STD, with approximately 1.6 million new cases last year. Young women (ages 15-24) account for nearly half (46 percent) of reported cases and face the most severe consequences of an undiagnosed infection. Untreated STDs, like chlamydia and gonorrhea, put women at increased risk for pelvic inflammatory disease which may result in chronic pelvic pain, infertility, and potentially a life-threatening ectopic pregnancy.
It is estimated that undiagnosed STDs cause infertility in more than 20,000 women each year.1
Wow, that’s so scary to me… that you can possibly become infertile, or not be able to have kids once you’re married some day and want to start a family!
In addition to chlamydia, there were 470,000 gonorrhea cases and almost 28,000 cases of primary and secondary syphilis – the most infectious stages of the disease. While all three of these STDs can be cured with antibiotics, if left undiagnosed and untreated, they can have serious health consequences, including infertility, life-threatening ectopic pregnancy, stillbirth in infants, and increased risk for HIV transmission.2
Unfortunately, young women are often more affected by STDs, especially chlamydia, according to the CDC, for a number of reasons. One is because of a woman’s anatomy that has more delicate mucous membrane and easily allows viruses and bacteria to pass through. The vagina is also a warm and moist environment, the type that encourages bacteria to grow. Another reason is because of a lack of symptoms. Many show no signs or symptoms or attribute them to something else and don’t get tested. If you do get any symptoms, they can also go away, even though the infection may remain. Lastly, if a woman is pregnant, she can pass an STD like genital herpes, syphilis and HIV to her baby during pregnancy or delivery.3
So why is all of this information so important? Because as a teen, if you don’t take responsibility for your sexual health, who will? Are you willing to risk your future health and fertility? The smartest thing you can do is to prevent becoming infected at all by delaying sexual activity for as long as possible and by limiting your partners (but that’s just reducing your risk). Ideally one life-long monogamous partner, aka marriage, is the best prevention of all! So what should you do if you’ve already been sexually active? Is there any anything you can do now? Of course there is, because it all depends on your future actions and/or risky behavior. ALSO please make sure you’re getting yourself tested at least every 6 months if you have been or continue to be sexually active. If you’re in the Bergen/Passaic County area of North Jersey, Lighthouse Pregnancy Resource Center offers testing for both chlamydia and gonorrhea that is both free and confidential at any of their 3 locations in Wayne, Paterson and Hackensack. Make an appointment today and make smart choices everyday!
2 STDs at record high, indicating urgent need for prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 9/27/3017.