Chlamydia symptoms in women
If you’ve recently had unprotected sex, and you aren’t sure that your partner was STI-free, it’s a good idea to get tested. The most common STIs, including chlamydia, don’t always cause symptoms, so you might not know you’re infected.
What is chlamydia?
Chlamydia is an infection that can be passed from one person to another during unprotected sex. It normally causes mild symptoms; in some cases it doesn’t cause any symptoms at all. However if chlamydia’s not treated, the infection can lead to more serious symptoms. In women, chlamydia can lead to a condition called pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), which can cause problems with fertility.
The good news is, chlamydia is usually really easy to treat. If you test positive, or if your doctor thinks it’s very likely you have chlamydia, you’ll be prescribed a short course of antibiotics. This should clear up the infection within a week, and prevent any further symptoms or complications.
How common is chlamydia?
Chlamydia is one of the most common STIs in the UK. In 2019, it accounted for almost half of all new STI cases in England. This is probably because lots of people who become infected don’t know they have it.
If you think you’ve been exposed to the infection (e.g. you had unprotected sex with someone who has chlamydia) you should get tested. You should get a test even if you’re not having any symptoms.
Home STI test kits for women and men are available from LloydsPharmacy Online Doctor.
Signs and symptoms of chlamydia in women
About 70% of women don’t experience any chlamydia symptoms at all. If you do get symptoms, you might experience the following:
A burning sensation when you urinate
A burning or stinging sensation when you urinate is a common symptom of an STI like chlamydia. This symptom can also point to a urinary tract infection (UTI). In any case, it’s always worth talking to a doctor.
Unusual vaginal discharge
Producing vaginal discharge is normal and healthy – it’s your body’s way of keeping the vagina moist and protecting it from infection. It’s also normal for vaginal discharge to change in thickness and texture across the month. Your discharge might be thick and sticky, or slippery and wet, but it should always be white or clear in colour, and shouldn’t have a bad smell.
If your vaginal discharge has an unpleasant or strong smell, or is green, yellow or bloody, this could be a sign of chlamydia or another STI.
Bleeding when you’re not on your period
Lots of women experience spotting or irregular bleeding from time to time. However, sustained bleeding outside your period or bleeding after sex might be a sign that you have chlamydia, or another STI.
Pain in your abdomen and pelvis
Having pain in the tummy and pelvis isn’t always a sign of infection – it’s often caused by period cramps. However, if you’re experiencing pain in this part of your body (especially when you’re not having your period) it might be a sign that you have an STI.
Pain during sex
If you have chlamydia you might notice that sex becomes more painful. You might also experience some bleeding during or after sex.
Whatever the cause of your symptoms, sex shouldn’t be painful, so if you often find it uncomfortable it’s worth speaking to a doctor.
A less common symptom of chlamydia is eye irritation. This can happen if infected semen or vaginal fluid gets in your eye during sex. You might notice that your eye becomes red, painful and itchy, and that it produces discharge.
If you’ve had unprotected anal sex with someone who has chlamydia, you might experience some pain in your bottom. An infection in this part of the body can also cause discharge from the anus.
What causes chlamydia in women?
Chlamydia is carried in semen or vaginal fluid from an infected person. It can be spread from one person to another during unprotected vaginal, anal or oral sex. You can also pick up the infection by touching your partner’s genitals, or sharing sex toys without washing them between uses.
To stay safe you should always:
- Use condoms and dental dams for vaginal, anal and oral sex if you’re aren’t sure that your partner is STI-free
- Wash sex toys between uses and/or cover them with a fresh condom each time
- Avoid sex if your partner is showing any symptoms.
- You can’t catch chlamydia from kissing, hugging, or sharing towels with another person.
Symptoms of pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
If chlamydia is left untreated and develops into pelvic inflammatory disease, it can cause more severe symptoms.
PID is associated with the kinds of symptoms listed above. Another sign is having unusually heavy or painful periods. In more serious cases, women with PID might experience severe pain in the tummy and pelvis, and develop a high temperature.
What are the long term effects of untreated chlamydia in women?
Chlamydia that develops into PID can cause problems with fertility. PID can affect the fallopian tubes, making it hard to conceive and increasing the risk of an ectopic pregnancy. It’s thought that about 1 in 10 women with PID become infertile.
The good news is, PID can usually be treated with antibiotics.
Get treatment from LloydsPharmacy Online Doctor
If you or your partner have been diagnosed with chlamydia, you can get prescription treatment from Online Doctor in just a few clicks. Find out more here.