Chlamydia in women: what you need to know

Medically reviewed by Rosanna Sutherby, PharmD on February 3, 2020. Written by Caitlin Boyd. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.


Although a chlamydia infection often causes no symptoms, and many people don't realize they have it, it can still cause health complications over time if it isn’t treated. In women, untreated chlamydia can lead to chronic pelvic pain and even infertility.

Here, you’ll learn more about chlamydia in women—including possible symptoms, testing recommendations from the CDC, health complications that can result from untreated infections, and more—so continue reading.

What causes chlamydia?

Chlamydia is a common sexually transmitted infection (STI or STD) that’s caused by the Chlamydia trachomatis bacterium. Researchers estimate that about 2.9 million Americans are infected with chlamydia each year.

The infection spreads through anal, vaginal, and oral sex—and both women and men are at risk for chlamydia. Among women, chlamydia is especially common in the 15-24 age range. The CDC recommends that sexually active women under 25 get tested annually for chlamydia, as well as gonorrhea.


With the Everlywell at-home Chlamydia & Gonorrhea Test, you can easily check for chlamydia and gonorrhea from the privacy of home—and get quick, confidential results within days on our secure, online platform. Everlywell also offers a more comprehensive at-home STD test that checks for 6 common sexually transmitted infections.


You can't build up an immunity to chlamydia, so even if you've already received treatment, you can still get infected again—but practicing safe sex (like consistently using condoms during sex) can help reduce your risk of reinfection.

What are the symptoms of chlamydia in women?

Chlamydia symptoms in women can include:

  • Bleeding between periods
  • Bleeding after sex
  • Pain during sex
  • Abdominal or pelvic pain
  • Abnormal vaginal discharge
  • Pain when urinating

Keep in mind, though, that not all women with chlamydia develop symptoms. The signs of chlamydia in women can also mirror the symptoms of other conditions—so testing for chlamydia is the only way to be sure whether you have this STI.

Pelvic inflammatory disease

Chlamydia infections often start in the urogenital tract. But if it isn’t treated, the infection can spread to the uterus, fallopian tubes, or ovaries and may eventually result in pelvic inflammatory disease (PID).

Symptoms of PID can include:

  • Bleeding between periods
  • Abdominal pain
  • Fever or chills
  • Pain when urinating
  • Vaginal discharge
  • Pain during intercourse

Ectopic pregnancy

When a woman ovulates, an egg usually passes through the fallopian tube (which connects the ovaries to the uterus).

If the egg is fertilized, it typically implants in the uterus. But in rare cases, the egg may implant outside the uterus, including in the cervix or ovaries. This condition is known as an ectopic pregnancy.

An ectopic pregnancy can't be carried to term, and in some cases, an ectopic pregnancy ruptures the fallopian tube or triggers internal bleeding. If this happens, the woman may need surgery or other emergency care.

Left untreated, chlamydia and gonorrhea can increase your risk of ectopic pregnancy by causing inflammation or blockages in the fallopian tubes (which means the fertilized egg can’t pass into the uterus).

Fortunately, ectopic pregnancies are fairly uncommon, and many women who get chlamydia recover—through treatment—without developing pregnancy-related complications. However, screening for chlamydia is key for preventing complications like PID: the CDC recommends all pregnant women under 25 get tested for chlamydia and gonorrhea, as well as pregnant women age 25+ who have risk factors (such as having a new sex partner or more than one sex partner).


With the Everlywell at-home Chlamydia & Gonorrhea Test, you can easily check for chlamydia and gonorrhea from the privacy of home—and get quick, confidential results within days on our secure, online platform.


Treatment for chlamydia

If your healthcare provider diagnoses you with chlamydia, they may prescribe antibiotics to treat the infection. It’s important to complete the full course of medication instead of stopping early—even if you are no longer experiencing symptoms. After you’ve completed the full course, your provider may recommend a follow-up test to confirm that the infection is gone.

Common questions about chlamydia

How is gonorrhea similar to chlamydia?

Like chlamydia, gonorrhea is a bacterial STI and can cause similar symptoms and health complications, including PID.

Symptoms of gonorrhea in women can include:

  • Pain when urinating
  • Abnormal vaginal discharge
  • Bleeding between periods

Does chlamydia affect fertility in women?

Untreated chlamydia can lead to infertility in women as a result of complications like pelvic inflammatory disease, or PID. According to some estimates, PID due to untreated chlamydia and gonorrhea infections causes infertility in 10-40% of women. That’s one key reason why early detection and treatment of these STIs is important for protecting your health.


With the Everlywell at-home Chlamydia & Gonorrhea Test, you can easily check for chlamydia and gonorrhea from the privacy of home—and get quick, confidential results within days on our secure, online platform.


References

1. Chlamydia trachomatis. Mayo Clinic. URL. Accessed February 3, 2020.

2. Chlamydia - CDC Fact Sheet (Detailed) Basic Fact Sheet | Detailed Version. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. URL. Accessed February 3, 2020.

3. Mohseni M, Sung S, Takov V. Chlamydia. In: StatPearls. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2020.

4. Which STD Tests Should I Get? Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. URL. Accessed February 3, 2020.

5. Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). Mayo Clinic. URL. Accessed February 3, 2020.

6. Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) - CDC Fact Sheet. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. URL. Accessed February 3, 2020.

7. Mummert T, Gnugnoli DM. Ectopic Pregnancy. In: StatPearls. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2020.

8. Ectopic pregnancy. Mayo Clinic. URL. Accessed February 3, 2020.

9. Screening Recommendations and Considerations Referenced in Treatment Guidelines and Original Sources. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. URL. Accessed February 3, 2020.

10. Gonorrhea Treatment and Care. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. URL. Accessed February 3, 2020.

11. Gonorrhea - CDC Fact Sheet. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. URL. Accessed February 3, 2020.

12. Apari P, de Sousa JD, Müller V. Why sexually transmitted infections tend to cause infertility: an evolutionary hypothesis. PLoS Pathog. 2014;10(8):e1004111. Published 2014 Aug 7. doi:10.1371/journal.ppat.1004111

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