You’re unexpectedly pregnant, and when you reach out to a pregnancy clinic for support, they tell you that you’ll need to have sexually transmitted infection testing if you’re considering abortion.
But you wonder why you can’t just take the abortion pill or have a surgical abortion without the extra step of sexually transmitted infection (STI) testing. Keep reading to learn why it’s so important to be tested for STIs before an abortion.
STIs Are an Epidemic
STIs are infections that spread from one person to another through sexual contact. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 20 percent of the U.S. population – that’s one in five people in the U.S. – currently has an STI. Half of all newly reported infections are in people between the ages of 15-24.
These estimates are low since many infections go undetected and unreported to CDC. STIs are often referred to as the “hidden epidemic.”
Wouldn’t I Know if I Had an STI?
Usually, if you have a different kind of infection, you will experience symptoms. But STIs are different, particularly for women.
Chlamydia and gonorrhea are among the most common STIs, yet most people do not have symptoms when they have these infections. In fact, chlamydia has been dubbed “the silent disease.” For this reason, you can’t trust a lack of symptoms as a sign that you don’t have an STI if you’re sexually active.
What Happens if I Have an Abortion With an Undiagnosed STI?
If you have an abortion with an untreated STI, you increase your risk of developing pelvic inflammatory disease (PID).
PID is a very serious infection of your reproductive organs. It can permanently affect your uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries. PID is caused by bacteria entering your reproductive tract.
Ninety percent of PID infections are caused by the bacteria found in chlamydia and gonorrhea. And more than 100,000 people become infertile (unable to have children) each year because of it.
The reason abortion increases your risk of PID is because your cervix dilates (opens), which creates a pathway for bacteria to travel further up your reproductive tract.
Next, we’ll discuss how PID affects your reproductive health.
Symptoms and Complications Associated With PID
Symptoms and complications from PID can range from mild to life-threatening, so it’s crucial that it’s detected early.
It’s also important to realize that even if the infection is cleared with antibiotics, you can still suffer ongoing issues such as pain and infertility. Research reveals that up to one-third of patients suffer from chronic pain after PID. So, prevention is key!
Symptoms of PID include:
- Fever of 100.4º or higher
- Frequent and/or painful urination
- Irregular menstrual cycles and/or spotting between periods
- Odorous vaginal discharge
- Pain or bleeding during sex
- Pain in the lower abdomen or near liver
- Pelvic Pain
PID complications can be lifelong and include:
- Abscesses around ovaries or fallopian tubes
- Scarring that causes long-term chronic pain
- Scarring leading to infertility – inability to have children
- Scarring that causes future ectopic pregnancies – pregnancy outside of the uterus
- Sepsis – a life-threatening blood infection
As you can see, it’s very important to be screened for STIs whether or not you have symptoms. Diagnosing and treating an STI early protects your reproductive health by reducing your risk of PID and long-term complications after abortions.
Protect Your Reproductive Health With Pre-abortion STI Testing
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021, January 25). At a glance. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/std/statistics/prevalence-2020-at-a-glance.htm
DM;, J. L. K. K. (n.d.). Pelvic inflammatory disease. National Center for Biotechnology Information. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29763134/
Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). Cleveland Clinic. (n.d.). Retrieved March 9, 2023, from https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/9129-pelvic-inflammatory-disease-pid