Infections and their Effects on Fertility

Common Infections Affecting Men’s Fertility

Epididymitis or Orchitis

Epididymitis is caused by a bacterial infection that causes the epididymis to swell. The epididymis is a long spiral tube behind the testicles that connects the testicles to the vas deferens and where sperm matures (12 days). Epididymitis can be sudden (acute) or long-term (sudden). Acute Epididymitis is caught easily and causes redness & swelling. Chronic Epididymitis has comparatively less pain but has long-term issues. 

Similar to the epididymis, orchitis is when one or both of the testicles swell and cause pain as a result of an infection or virus. Even though the swelling is on the testicles, it doesn’t spread to the epididymis. 

Chronic epididymitis is usually seen in adults and includes symptoms like redness, tenderness, and even swelling in the scrotum and a lump in the testicles. The pain usually begins behind one of the testicles. This can spread to the whole teste, scrotum, and sometimes the groin. 

Symptoms get better with treatment but may not go away fully and can come & go. Treatment usually consists of antibiotics taken for 1-2 weeks. However, the type of medicine depends on the type of bacteria found. Doctors usually prescribe antibiotics for epididymitis caused by STDs such as chlamydia and gonorrhea, the most common infections that cause epididymitis.


Chlamydia is an STI that is caused by bacteria and leads to men’s infertility by blocking the reproductive parts and making sperm production difficult. If it is not caught and treated early, it may lead to blockage and scarring. 

Chlamydia infections are treatable and curable. But it’s important to receive treatment as soon as possible. Left untreated, chlamydia can lead to serious complications.

Symptoms can include 

  • Pain or burning sensation when urinating 
  • Swollen testicles
  • Light-colored discharge

Treatment usually consists of antibiotics taken for 1-2 weeks. A person needs to finish the antibiotics even if their symptoms aren’t there. It is advised to refrain from sexual activities and contact sexual partner(s) to get tested.

For more details about chlamydia, please click on Sexually Transmitted Infections – STIs – Letena Ethiopia


Mycoplasma is a tiny, unique group of bacteria that penetrate cells and tissues, the smallest of all bacterias. They are referred to as obligate parasites because cannot survive without a host. When mycoplasma infects the sperm it will reduce its mobility and may lead to infertility. Mycoplasma has nearly 200 types but most are harmless. The major ones are mycoplasma pneumoniae, mycoplasma genitalium, mycoplasma hominis, ureaplasma urealyticum, and ureaplasma parvum.

Symptoms may include:

  • Pain in your joints and muscles 
  • Digestive, heart, and respiratory problems
  • Issues with the immune and nervous systems such as burning, nerve dysfunction, autoimmunity,  and more
  • Watery discharge from the penis
  • Difficulty urinating due to burning or pain

Mycoplasma is difficult to treat since common antibiotics like penicillin kill bacteria by destroying its cell walls. However, since mycoplasma has no cell walls it isn’t effective. 


It is a bacterial infection of the lungs that has been linked to male reproductive problems. Tuberculosis can also spread and cause secondary infections in the uterus, fallopian tubes, and genitals, causing infertility if not caught early.

Symptoms may include:

  • For women 
    • Irregular menstruation
    • Pelvic pain
    • Discharge that is usually bloody or foul smelling
    • Bleeding after intercourse
    • Issues with the  fallopian tubes and the uterus
  • For men
    • Issues with the prostate gland, epididymis, and testes
    • Difficulty ejaculating
    • Low sperm mobility
    • Issues with the pituitary gland prevent the production of necessary hormones.

Treatment is relatively easy if tuberculosis is caught early. It can usually be treated with anti-TB treatment. Vaccination is also available to avoid getting this disease in the first place.

Common Infections Affecting Women’s Fertility

Vaginal mycosis

Vaginal mycosis is a common fungal infection in women, usually caused by yeast fungi called Candida albicans. It is a natural vaginal yeast that grows naturally and often goes unnoticed. However, when the vaginal flora balance is disturbed, this fungus becomes infectious and causes a variety of symptoms. Research shows that one in four women will get this infection at any point in their lives. 

Symptoms may include:

  • Thick and odorless grey-white discharge (smelly discharge is another type of vaginosis, usually bacterial vaginosis)
  • Itching, burning, and redness in the vagina and pubic area
  • Small bumps on the surface of the genital skin

Treatment usually consists of anti-fungal medicines, including cream and vaginal suppositories called antimycotics. Doctors will prescribe tablets inserted in the vagina if the infection is severe. 

    Bacterial vaginosis (BV)

    Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is the most common vaginal infection in women ages 15-44. It occurs when there is an imbalance between the “helpful” and “harmful” bacteria typically found in a woman’s vagina. 

    BV can affect fertility by:

    • Creating a toxic reproductive environment by worsening inflammation and immune system activity
    • Damaging sperm and vaginal cells
    • Preventing regular cervical mucus production that is necessary for ovulation
    • Cause scaring tissue that blocks the fallopian tubes preventing the sperm from reaching the egg 

    Symptoms may include:

    • White/greyish discharge with a fishy smell 

    Treating BV is fairly simple, consisting of antibiotics that include gel or cream that are applied in the vagina or pills taken orally. 

    For more details about bacterial vaginosis, please click on Sexually Transmitted Infections – STIs – Letena Ethiopia


    Chlamydia is among the most common STIs that is spread widely among teenagers or young adults. For women, Chlamydia is asymptomatic, meaning it has no external symptoms. If it is not caught early, it can spread to the upper genital tract and cause more complications. 

    For more details about chlamydia, please click on Sexually Transmitted Infections – STIs – Letena Ethiopia


    Gonorrhea is an STI most common in young adults. Gonorrhea is an STI very similar to chlamydia in the way it is transmitted and the way it is treated. Gonorrhea mainly attacks the urethra, cervix, & fallopian tubes and causes inflammation. Similar to Chlamydia, if it is not caught early it can spread to more reproductive organs and prevent normal functionality. 

    For more details about gonorrhea, please click on Sexually Transmitted Infections – STIs – Letena Ethiopia

    Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID)

    Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) is an infection of the female reproductive organs that usually occurs when an untreated STI spreads from the vagina to the uterus, fallopian tubes, or ovaries. It is the leading cause of infertility in women. About 1 in 8 women with a history of PID will have trouble getting pregnant. Since PID is a “silent” infection it doesn’t show symptoms immediately, bacteria are more easily transmitted, especially from male to female than female to male. 

    Symptoms include lower abdomen & pelvis pain, smelly & heavy vaginal discharge & bleeding, pain during sex & urination, fever, and pain during urination. Complications include chronic pelvic pain, Tubo-ovarian abscess, and pregnancy-related complications like ectopic pregnancy & infertility. 

    If diagnosed early, it can be treated. However, treatment won’t undo any damage that has already happened to the reproductive system. Latex condoms may reduce the risk of PID by preventing STDs. Since STDs play a major role in PID, screening of women at risk for infection and treating infected women and their sex partners can help minimize the risk of PID.

    Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)

    Urinary Tract Infection, also called bladder infection, is a bacterial inflammation in the urinary tract consisting of the kidney, bladder, ureters (carries urine from the kidney to the bladder), and urethra (carries urine from the bladder to outside the body). This can cause sepsis (a life-threatening infection in the bloodstream that causes a drop in blood pressure, increased heart rate, and fever), kidney, bladder, and yeast infections. If a UTI isn’t treated in the lower urinary tract, it may cause infertility when it spreads to the upper urinary tract.

    Symptoms may include: 

    • Pain or burning while urinating
    • Frequent urination
    • Blood in the urine
    • Pain in the lower abdomen & during intercourse
    • Urine that is cloudy and foul-smelling
    • For kidney infections: fever, chills, nausea, and vomiting

    Treatment consists of antibiotics such as amoxicillin or penicillin that are taken for 3-7 days. Symptoms usually disappear in 3 days but you must continue your medication as scheduled to ensure effective treatment.