What is chlamydia?
Chlamydia is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the UK.
It’s caused by the bacteria ‘chlamydia trachomatis’, which is found in the semen or vaginal fluid of those that carry the infection. Simply put, it’s a bacterial infection.
How do you catch chlamydia and what are the symptoms?
Chlamydia can be transmitted through the transfer of sexual fluids (semen and vaginal fluids), usually through genital contact. It can be passed on from unprotected vaginal, anal or oral sex, but it can also spread by sharing vibrators or other sex toys that haven’t been washed and covered with a new condom each time they’re used.
Symptoms of Chlamydia include:
- Abnormal vaginal discharge
- Bleeding between periods, heavier periods, pain or bleeding during sex
- Pain or a burning feeling when urinating
- Pain in the lower abdomen
However, around 50% of men and 70% of women with chlamydia are asymptomatic – this means they do not experience any physical symptoms, so they may have the infection and not realise it, making it easy to pass on.
If chlamydia is left untreated it can have serious complications, such as infertility and miscarriage. Because of this, it’s incredibly important to get tested if you think you’ve been exposed to it, or if you’ve recently had unprotected sex.
How to prevent getting infected with chlamydia
- Use a condom every time you have sex.
- Use a dental dam to cover female genitals during oral sex.
- Never share sex toys.
- Get tested regularly, especially if you are having unprotected sex or have new partners.
- Talk openly and honestly with partners about your and their sexual health.
How to get tested for and receive treatment for chlamydia
While it can seem embarrassing or stressful to go through STI testing, be assured that there’s nothing scary about it. If you go to the GP or a clinic, the professionals there will talk you through the process calmly. Alternatively, you can even do it from the privacy of your own home.
Check out our STI test guide for information on how to get tested and treated for chlamydia. If you have chlamydia with no symptoms you will be prescribed a course of antibiotics. If you have chlamydia with symptoms, you’ll be referred to a clinic for treatment. Do not have sex until the infection has cleared and you have completely finished your treatment to prevent passing it on to someone else.
How to stop chlamydia from spreading
If you do test positive, it’s important to tell former partners so that they too can get tested and prevent the infection from spreading. If you are concerned about telling them, the clinic at which you get tested or treated can contact your past partners for you.
With new partners always use a condom and ensure you’re both up-to-date with a recent STI test. And if you notice anything strange, get it checked out.