About 60 percent of women experience Urinary tract infection (UTI) at least once a year. And 1 in 10,000 males experience recurrent UTI. The UTI is more common in women between the ages of 20 to 35 years, while in men the risk of having a UTI is more as their age progresses. So when a couple is trying to conceive and either one of them gets UTI, the first question that comes to their mind is whether it affects the sperm quality and whether it causes infertility. So let’s see in what way UTI is related to fertility.
How does it start?
Initially, you will have no symptoms, then you might experience sudden itching in your genitals, a burning sensation when you urinate, sometimes even pain. You will start visiting the bathroom more frequently or you might feel an urge to urinate and in very severe cases you might even find blood in the urine. You will not experience all the symptoms but if left untreated one thing leads to another and the infection becomes progressive.
How does it impact fertility?
UTI doesn’t directly affect fertility in any way. In cases where recurrent UTI is left untreated or when the UTI is accompanied by sexually transmitted diseases such as Chlamydia, Syphilis, or Gonorrhea there is a risk of developing Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID). Initially, it starts as an infection in your vaginal canal and moves upwards to the cervix, uterus, ovaries, and finally the tubes. If left untreated there is the formation of an abscess (pus) which in turn leads to scarring of the tubes. Once the tubes are scarred the egg cannot travel from the ovary to the uterus causing infertility. Even in rare cases, if it travels and the woman conceives there is a risk of having an ectopic pregnancy. 10 percent of females face this situation.
Generally, the infection is caused by E.coli organisms. This infection is localized over the vaginal canal and if no medical treatment is done, the bacteria continue to multiply especially in the urine, and could even be transmitted to your partner. All those hinder the movement of sperm upwards from the vaginal canal into the cervix delaying conception. Optimal pH in the female external and internal genital area is required for the good movement of sperm. In bacterial infections, this pH is disturbed and becomes unbalanced leading to decreased movement of sperm.
E. coli infection in males multiples and spreads faster compared to females. It spreads from testicles to the epididymis and other reproductive organs. Due to the accumulation of infection in these organs, sperm production will be affected thus leading to decreased sperm count. When the infection spreads further to the bladder and other reproductive organs, it affects the formation of sperms leading to abnormal sperm morphology.
In females, the urinary tract opening is different from the reproductive tract, while in males, both have the same opening hence the level of infection and impact on fertility is higher, and seeking medical treatment is very much essential. If left untreated, it leads to a condition called Acute prostatitis, where there is scarring and blockage of ducts which is responsible for ejaculation.
Does UTI affect ovulation?
The answer is quite complicated since this has to be viewed in various aspects. First and foremost when you have UTI you wouldn’t have sex since it aggregates your issue as well as you will feel uncomfortable. Your healthcare provider will advice you to restrain from having sex until the issue resolves. No intercourse during ovulation decreases your chance of conceiving. Secondly, your immunity level decreases during ovulation due to the spike in the hormones. In this situation, if you already had UTI the infection spreads to the bladder resulting in fever. Running with a fever during ovulation disrupts your hormone, affecting the maturation and rupture of the follicle. On the other hand, it is also important to be aware that a woman has a higher chance of acquiring a UTI during her ovulation period.
I have symptoms of UTI but was diagnosed that there is no UTI, what could it be then and will it affect my fertility?
Has this ever happened to you where you were sure that you had UTI but when tests were done there was no evidence of a UTI and something else is affecting your process of conception. The following conditions present with similar signs and symptoms of UTI and affect your fertility and any of these could be the reason for the above question:
- Sexually transmitted infections
- Pelvic tuberculosis
Is yeast infection different from that of UTI?
Yes, it is. Yeast infection is caused by overgrowth of a fungus called Candida while UTI is the result of bacteria. Yeast infection mostly occurs with symptoms of itching and irritation in your genitals while UTI occurs more with urinary symptoms.
Now, Why is knowing the difference important?
Because yeast infection doesn’t affect fertility in any way while UTI affects fertility indirectly. Hence treating UTI as soon as diagnosed is important while yeast infection usually resolves on its own when proper hygiene is maintained. Couples who are planning to conceive should know this difference to be clear on what they have and when to seek treatment.
So does UTI affect fertility or not?
No, it doesn’t if the diagnosis is made earlier and treated. If left untreated for more than 4-6 weeks it impacts your fertility indirectly. In case when you have a recurrent UTI, it is important to rule out Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) in females and semen quality in males since both of them hinder your chances of conceiving. Staying hydrated by drinking at least 8 glasses of water and avoiding holding back urine and urinating whenever you have the urge are the simple ways to prevent UTI.