Hormonal Contraception and Risk of Chlamydia
Chlamydia is a common sexually transmitted disease (STD). Like other STDs, chlamydia spreads through unprotected vaginal, anal, or oral sex with an infected partner.
Besides, ejaculation is not required for its spread. It can also transmit if the genitals come in contact with infected fluids.
Using a barrier method of contraception, such as dental dams and condoms, is the best way to prevent STDs. However, hormonal contraceptives such as birth control pills may increase your risk of chlamydia. Also, just using hormonal contraception will not prevent chlamydia unless you use a condom or diaphragm.
This article details about types of contraception and their risk of chlamydia.
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Does Hormonal Birth Control Increase the Risk of Chlamydia?
Some studies have shown that the use of oral contraceptive pills had a significantly high risk of chlamydia. This contraception method can also increase the risk of other infections such as candidiasis, pelvic inflammatory disease, and cervicitis.
Experts believe that the hormones estrogen and progesterone in these contraceptives can suppress the growth of vaginal flora, which protects against infection.
However, other studies could not find any relation between the use of hormonal birth control and the risk of chlamydia.
With limited research on this subject, it is difficult to draw a conclusion.
Does External Birth Control Reduce the Risk of Chlamydia
Yes. External birth control method such as condoms is the best way to prevent chlamydia.
Here are some different external birth control methods and their effectiveness.
While they prevent pregnancy, they are equally important to prevent the spread of STDs, including chlamydia. Both men and women can use a condom. However, the male condom is the only proven method to lower the risk of STDs.
There are four types of male condoms: polyurethane, latex, lambskin, and polyisoprene. According to the FDA, polyurethane, latex, and polyisoprene are effective in preventing STDs and pregnancy.
Lab tests have also shown equal efficacy of latex and polyurethane against STDs. However, polyurethane condoms are not as elastic as latex condoms and do not fit well. So, there is a high risk that these condoms might slip off or break during intercourse. Studies have also shown that polyurethane condoms are three to five times more likely to break or slip than latex condoms.
Moreover, lambskin condoms have tiny pores. These pores may be too small for the sperm to escape. But bacteria causing chlamydia may pass through these pores. Thus, lambskin condoms are not an effective method of contraception in preventing STDs.
The use of a condom with each sexual act lowers the risk of STDs, including chlamydia.
A dental dam is a thin latex piece to be applied over the vulva and perineum, preventing mucosal or skin-to-skin contact between the partners during oral sex. Dams are usually used along with female or male condoms.
Caps and Diaphragms
Cervical caps and vaginal diaphragms can help prevent the spread of STD in the upper part of the reproductive tract. However, they cannot combat the spread through the lower vagina or perineum.
So, they are not effective against external genital infection.
Types of Birth Control and Risk of Chlamydia
The mentioned birth control methods are seen to increase the risk of chlamydia:
- Regular use of oral contraceptive pills without using condoms. Hormones in the pill suppress protective natural vaginal flora’s growth, increasing the risk of chlamydia infection in the lower genital and reproductive tract. They are seen to double the risk of genital chlamydia infection when compared to females not using it.
- Insertion of intrauterine devices in females with an active infection in the pelvic organs.
- The contraceptive sponge contains nonoxynol-9, which inactivates sperms. However, this spermicide increases the risk of ulceration in the genital area because of its detergent action.
- The long-acting progestin injectable depot medroxyprogesterone acetate is seen to increase the risk of chlamydia significantly. However, interestingly, it is seen to lower the risk of other STDs such as bacterial vaginosis, trichomoniasis, and pelvic inflammatory disease.
Other risk factors include:
- Being women
- Age between 18-25 years
- Having multiple sexual partners
- Frequent engagement in unprotected sex
- Men having sex with men
Consistent use of condoms is the best way to prevent getting or transmitting chlamydia infection. Besides, using a dual method of contraception is effective against both STDs and unintended pregnancy.
The following can help to lower the risk of chlamydia
- Use a condom, especially with each new partner
- Avoid having oral sex unless the partner is screened for STIs
- Get screened regularly
- Limit the number of sexual partners
- Correct and consistent use of condoms
- Avoid sex until the treatment is complete
- Get tested if you are pregnant or planning to conceive
Here are some myths associated with chlamydia
- It affects only women. (The fact is females are more prone, but both genders can be infected).
- You can get infected through a toilet seat. (It is not possible to spread through contact with surfaces).
- Oral contraception is preventive against chlamydia. (It protects only against pregnancy and not chlamydia).
- You cannot get chlamydia through anal or oral sex. (You can get through any type of sex if the partner is infected).
- Sexual intercourse and ejaculation are necessary for transmitting the infection. (This is not true, genital contact can spread chlamydia).
- Chlamydia infection resolves on its own. (This is not true, and if left unattended, it may cause complications such as infertility in women and urethritis in men).
- You can get infected only once. (The fact is that even if you are completely treated, you can catch a fresh infection from a partner).
- Treating chlamydia is difficult. (Instead, the opposite is true. It is easily treated using antibiotics).
- Getting tested for chlamydia is difficult. (It is easy to get tested).
- You will always have symptoms of chlamydia. (It is important to know that chlamydia is a silent condition in most cases).