In October a new CDC report found that sexually transmitted diseases have reached an all-time high in the United States. Moreover the CDC earlier conceded that STDs can cause permanent damage leading to infertility. In fact, there has been a 65% increase in IVF treatments since 2003. Sure, women choosing motherhood later in life is a factor, but so is the jump in STDs. To learn why STDs have reached an all-time high in the U.S., lifestyle journalist Briana Booker interviews Dr. Mark Surrey, the co-founder and Medical Director of the Southern California Reproductive Center (SCRC) to get answers on how millennials can protect themselves from STDs and lower their risk of infertility.
Briana Booker: How can a woman effectively prevent herself from getting STDs as a single woman and in marriage?
Dr. Mark Surrey: The best way to avoid STDs other than abstinence is to use barrier contraceptives. Condoms for him and for her help prevent the spreading of fluids and viruses. You must be pro-active if you don’t trust your partners. Let’s face it, we are living in an era where random sex is on the rise, and therefore, STDs are reaching toxic levels.
BB: Is there an age most impacted by the rise of STD rates?
Dr. MS: A few years ago there was a study that discovered retirement homes had become breeding grounds for STDs. This older generation didn’t grow up with the openness of buying or using condoms nor did they think they were necessary as they had aged out of child bearing years. This just proves that STDs are cross generational. You can be a teenager or a 90 year old and have the same chances of contacting a disease if you are sexually active.
BB: If one wants a complete STD testing, where can they request it — from a primary physician or a specialty doctor?
Dr. MS: You can get tested from any doctor, if you feel uncomfortable asking your GP, there are free clinics or medical fairs where you can get tested. I suggest you research your area for this information.
BB: How can a woman improve her fertility?
Dr. MS: There are plenty of wives tales about improving fertility including sexual positions, eating special food, dreaming about babies, etc…. but as a specialist in this field I can say with authority, they are just tales. Certainly living a healthy lifestyle helps with the chances of getting pregnant but so does living stress free. I have seen many women who seem relatively healthy but they cannot get pregnant, with these patients we have various options. That is why I strongly suggest to see a specialist and get proper testing as soon as you think something is not right.
BB: Are there any STD signs and symptoms men can look out for?
Dr. MS: The most common sign is no sign at all. That is why I always suggest getting tested during your check-ups. Other common indicators of a possible STD are itching, rashes or blisters on the penis or in the genital area, a milky discharge, pain when you urinate or ejaculate. If any of these symptoms continue, see your doctor right away. STDs can be easily treatable, but it is best to catch them at the beginning.
BB: Why are young people, gay and bisexual men at the greatest risk of becoming infected with an STD?
Dr. MS: There is a belief that there is more promiscuity in the LBGT community. However, because this community is more sexually open and aware, they are probably going to be tested more often and find out if they have been infected at an earlier stage.
BB: Why should every pregnant woman be tested for syphilis?
Dr. MS: Pregnant women can pass along any virus or illness to their unborn child. It doesn’t always happen but it is very probable. Therefore they should be tested for all STDs as soon as they confirm they are pregnant. STD testing for pregnant women is necessary to prevent transmission to the infant.
BB: How do condoms help with STDs prevention?
Dr. MS: Using latex condoms lessens the chance of getting an STD to about 2%.The latex acts as a barrier that stops the transfer of infections.
BB: How effective are condoms in STD prevention?
Dr. MS: According to recent studies, if used correctly and consistently, condoms are about 98% effective in STD prevention.
About Southern California Reproductive Center (SCRC): For more than 20 years, SCRC has been the ranking choice in Los Angeles for those seeking pregnancy and successful birth. The physicians at SCRC are truly pioneers in the field of fertility treatment and could speak to the issues addressed in the CDC reports.
Among the specialists at SCRC, Dr. Mark Surrey is a prolific researcher who has authored numerous publications for leading peer-reviewed journals. Dr. Surrey has pursued rigorous training in IVF, preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD), pelvic reconstructive surgery, microsurgery, and laparoscopic surgery.