‘Dirty’ and Infertile: the Underdiagnosis and Impact of Chlamydia
Personal identity is shaped as we navigate our social world and perceive our experiences. Human reproduction and motherhood have come to be associated with womanhood in immeasurable ways, to the extent that some consider pregnancy and motherhood to be the essence of womanhood. Therefore, complications such as infertility can have a huge impact on a woman’s identity. The World Health Organization estimates that everyday more than 1 million people are infected with a sexually transmitted infection (STI) (“Sexually Transmitted Infections). When left untreated, STIs can pose serious complications for women planning to become pregnant. Chlamydia, the most common STD in the United States, can result in urethritis, cervicitis, pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), infertility, ectopic pregnancy, and chronic pelvic pain (Paavonen et al., 1990). The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 2.86 million Americans are infected with Chlamydia annually, however as many as half of these cases go unreported; a frightening statistic considering 10-15% of the untreated infections develop into Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) and PID results in infertility 10-15% of the time (“STDs &Infertility”; “Pelvic Inflammatory Disease”). The Institute of Medicine estimates that PID is the etiology of infertility in at least 15% of infertile American women, yet less than 50% of sexually active young females, the most at-risk group, are tested annually. In 2000, 25.3% of young women were tested (“The Hidden Epidemic”). By 2007, it jumped to 41.6% (U.S Preventative Services Task Force). Historical failures of the medical community, current health disparities, and female-specific social pressures explain why so many cases of Chlamydia go undiagnosed, but the potential implications of Chlamydia and infertility on female identity are evidence that continuous efforts must be made to ensure all women are able to utilize preventative health services.
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