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Chlamydia

Chlamydia in women

What is chlamydia?

  • A common sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by the bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis.
  • Most women do not notice anything wrong – hence it is often called a ‘silent infection’.
  • If left untreated chlamydia may lead to serious problems such as infertility.
  • Early treatment will prevent long term problems.
  • Testing is now widely available through the National Chlamydia Screening Programme at your GP as well as at the Wolverton Centre or any sexual health clinic.
  • If you have Chlamydia we recommend that you should have a full STI screen including an HIV test.

How common is chlamydia?

  • It is the most common bacterial STI in the UK.
  • It is found most frequently in young people under the age of 25 years – 1 in 10 will have it but most will be unaware of their infection.

How do you catch chlamydia?

Chlamydia is passed on through sex:

  • Unprotected vaginal, anal or oral sex (or sharing sex toys) with someone that has Chlamydia.
  • From an infected mother to her baby at birth.Sometimes from genitals to fingers to eyes where it may cause conjunctivitis (an eye infection).
  • Chlamydia cannot be caught by kissing, or from swimming pools, saunas or toilet seats.

What would I notice if I had chlamydia?

  • Most women (over 70%) with chlamydia will not notice anything wrong – but they can still pass the infection on.
  • Some women may notice one or more of the following:
  • Bleeding between periods or after sex
  • Pelvic pain particularly during sex
  • ‘Cystitis’ or burning pain when passing urine
  • Increased vaginal discharge

How do I get tested for chlamydia?

  • In women, testing is either by a swab taken from the neck of the womb (cervix) by a doctor or nurse during an internal examination or a self taken swab from the vagina.
  • Your results will be ready in 3 days. They will be sent to you via a text message or the nurse may call you.
  • Urine samples may occasionally be done but are not as accurate so we prefer to do a swab.
  • The swab is sent to Kingston Hospital laboratory where a specific NAATS test for chlamydia is done. This is very accurate and will detect over 97% infections correctly.

How is chlamydia treated?

  • Chlamydia can be easily treated with antibiotics.

Either:

  • AZITHROMYCIN 1g single dose (4 tablets)

OR

  • DOXYCYCLINE 100mg capsules  twice daily for 7 days
  • All treatments from the Wolverton Centre are free and are given to you in the clinic
  • Both treatments are highly effective – but you need to wait 7 days before having sex again to give the azithromycin time to work.
  • The antibiotics may interfere with the contraceptive pill and make it less effective – use condoms for 7 days after finishing the antibiotics and when you finish your current pack of pills immediately start the next pack i.e. omit the 7 day break
  • We don’t normally need to do another test to check the chlamydia has gone as long as you have taken your treatment correctly.

What about my partner?

  • Chlamydia is a sexually transmitted infection so it is important that all current sexual partners either attend the Wolverton, another sexual health clinic or their GP to be tested and treated before resuming sex again.
  • Some of your previous partners may also need treatment – the nurse will advise about this.

What problems can untreated chlamydia lead to?

  • Chlamydia infection starts in the neck of the womb (cervix) where it is usually ‘silent’.
  • Chlamydia can then spread internally to the uterus (womb), fallopian tubes and ovaries where it causes a pelvic infection called pelvic inflammatory disease or PID click here for further information on PID.
  • Pelvic infection leads to damage and scarring of the fallopian tubes – this may result in an ectopic pregnancy (baby in the tube) and/or infertility.
  • These problems can be prevented by early treatment.

Chlamydia in pregnancy

  • Pregnant women with chlamydia can pass the infection onto their baby during vaginal delivery.
  • Babies may develop a sticky eye (conjunctivitis) or more seriously pneumonia.
  • Women can be easily tested and treated during pregnancy and this will prevent infection in their baby.
  • We always retest women again at 36 weeks gestation to ensure the infection has gone.

Will chlamydia come back again after treatment?

  • Treatment for chlamydia always works – as long as you have taken it correctly and checked that your partner has been tested and treated too.
  • But you could catch chlamydia again so it is important to use condoms with new partners and both get tested for STIs before having sex without a condom.
  • National guidelines recommend testing :
    • annually in all sexually active women under the age of 25 years
    • in all women with a new partner
    • in all pregnant women
    • in all women with pelvic pain, abnormal bleeding, vaginal discharge.

For more information

http://www.bashh.org/

http://www.chlamydiascreening.nhs.uk/

http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/STIs/Pages/STIs-hub.aspx