Written by Tyrone Dalton
23 November 2016
A LEADING fertility expert says while infertility rates are stable, sexually transmissible infections are increasingly affecting women’s health later in life, often unknowingly.
Dr Kimberley Sleeman was at the forefront of reintroducing IVF to Mildura in 2014 and now assists 80 to 100 patients in Mildura each year. “The number of patients seeking treatment for infertility in Mildura is very stable,” she said. However, speaking more broadly on women’s health in the region, Dr Sleeman said there was a noticeable higher rate of Sexually Transmissible Infections (STI).
“This is something we would test for with a number of gynaecology presentations, so this is something we see and need to test for,” she said. As an asymptomatic infection in women, many do not know they have chlamydia. A number of different practices are used to detect STIs. While STIs can cause symptoms, they do not always show stinging, burning, pain or discharge.
The lasting effects are caused by the sexually transmissible infections causing damage to the Fallopian tubes, and a factor in women seeking IVF treatment, but many are diagnosed without having a known episode of infection. “It might be to do with contraception, pelvic pain, irregular bleeding, unplanned pregnancies or fertility issues,” Dr Sleeman said.
“All of those different clinical situations is where STI testing might be done,” she said.
“So they may have an infection many years in the past, but this gets discovered only at a later stage when they come to investigate infertility.”
Routine annual testing for chlamydia in women under 25 is often done by a general practitioner however specialised clinics such as Mildura O and G (Obstetrics and Gynaecology) will also test for STIs if the clinical presentation such as pap smear test – require it. “We see a lot of positive results for STIs (during routine tests), particularly chlamydia. In the last 18 months I’ve also seen quite a few cases of positive gonorrhoea results which I hadn’t seen in the past five years before that,” Dr Sleeman said.
She said there was a lack of understanding in the community about how common STIs were and how important preventative strategies, such as condoms, were.