Infections and infertility

Prim Care Update Ob Gyns. 2000 Sep 1;7(5):200-206. doi: 10.1016/s1068-607x(00)00047-0.


Infertility affects 10-15% of all couples. Pelvic infections are an important cause of infertility, primarily as a result of tubal damage. Damage to the fallopian tubes from infections may be due to adhesions, tubal mucosal damage, or tubal occlusion that interferes with normal ovum transport. The infections most commonly related to infertility include gonorrhea, chlamydia, and pelvic inflammatory disease. Tuberculosis also is a common cause of infertility in Third World nations. Sequelae resulting from these infections include ectopic pregnancy, infertility, chronic pelvic pain, hydrosalpinx, and tuboovarian abscess. Neisseria gonorrhoeae and Chlamydia trachomatis are the primary causes of pelvic inflammatory disease. Chlamydial infections may be asymptomatic, and the resulting salpingitis is often referred to as silent pelvic inflammatory disease. Polymicrobial infection with other organisms such as anaerobes or facultative aerobes may be initiated by gonorrhea, chlamydia, or both. Early recognition of infection, prompt institution of appropriate antibiotic therapy, and proper follow-up are important to prevent the sequelae of pelvic inflammatory disease. Surgical intervention may be needed to treat immediate or long-term sequelae of infection. Prevention of pelvic infections should be a high priority. Fortunately, treatment options such as tubal microsurgery and assisted reproductive technologies offer couples reproductive options even when infertility occurs as the result of a previous pelvic infection.