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Chlamydial Infection in Females: Teen Version

What is chlamydial infection?

Chlamydia is a very common sexually transmitted disease. It can affect many parts of the body. In women the infection is often in the urinary tract and female organs. It is important to find and treat chlamydia because it can cause painful infection and scarring of the female organs. It can also cause infertility (inability to get pregnant).

If you have chlamydia and unprotected sex with someone who has HIV, you are more likely to be infected with HIV.

How does it occur?

Bacteria called Chlamydia trachomatis cause the infection. The infection is usually passed from person to person during sex.

What are the symptoms?

Possible symptoms are:

  • abnormal discharge from the vagina
  • mild pain or discomfort when you urinate
  • menstrual periods that are heavier or more painful than usual
  • pain in your belly, especially during sex
  • spotting between periods or after sex.

Chlamydia can also infect the throat and cause a sore throat after oral sex.

Often there are no symptoms, especially early in the infection.

How is it diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will ask about your symptoms. You will usually have a pelvic exam to get a sample from your cervix for tests. Sometimes a sample of urine may be tested.

Because chlamydia is a common sexually transmitted disease and can have complications, healthcare providers recommend yearly tests for chlamydia in sexually active teens and young women up to age 25. A test for chlamydia is also recommended for any woman who has a new sex partner or more than 1 partner. It’s also recommended if your partner has had another sex partner. This is especially important if you haven’t used condoms every time you have sex.

Not all healthcare providers routinely check for chlamydia early in pregnancy. Ask your provider to test you for chlamydia if:

  • You have a new sexual partner.
  • You have more than 1 sexual partner or your partner has more than 1 partner.
  • You haven’t always used condoms
  • You have had other sexually transmitted diseases.
  • You think you may have been exposed to the infection.

How is it treated?

Antibiotics usually cure the infection. You may need to take more than 1 antibiotic, especially if there is a chance you have other infections, such as gonorrhea. Your sexual partner or partners should also have treatment even if they don’t have any symptoms.

Be sure to tell your healthcare provider if you are or think you are pregnant. Your provider will prescribe an antibiotic that is safe for the baby.

Cases of chlamydia are required by law to be reported to the local health department. The clinic staff will ask about your sexual partners. They will be told that they have had contact with someone who has chlamydia. This will help them get prompt treatment for the infection. (Your name will not be given.) The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) follow these infections so they can find epidemics in the early stages. This allows the CDC to take steps to prevent new infections and to get as many people as possible checked and treated. The CDC also watches to see which antibiotics work best to treat the infection.

How long will the effects last?

The symptoms usually go away within a few days after you start taking the antibiotic. Without treatment the disease can cause serious problems. It could make it hard or impossible for you to get pregnant.

The infection can be passed from a pregnant woman to her baby during birth. Chlamydia can cause eye infections or pneumonia in the baby. If you had chlamydia while you were pregnant, tell your baby’s healthcare provider. Then your provider will know to watch for problems that could be caused by the infection.

How can I take care of myself?

  • Follow the full treatment prescribed by your healthcare provider. Be sure to take your medicine for as long as it is prescribed, even if your symptoms are gone before you are done taking it.
  • Take aspirin, acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or naproxen for pain. Check with your healthcare provider before you give any medicine that contains aspirin or salicylates to a child or teen. This includes medicines like baby aspirin, some cold medicines, and Pepto Bismol. Children and teens who take aspirin are at risk for a serious illness called Reye's syndrome. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, naproxen, and aspirin, may cause stomach bleeding and other problems. These risks increase with age. Read the label and take as directed. Unless recommended by your healthcare provider, do not take for more than 10 days for any reason.
  • Follow your healthcare provider's instructions for follow-up visits and tests. Your provider will need to make sure that the infection is gone.
  • Tell everyone with whom you have had sex in the last 3 months about your infection. Or you can ask the clinic staff to tell them without using your name. Your sexual contacts need to be treated even if they don’t have any symptoms. Don’t have sex until both you and your partner have finished all of the medicine and your provider says it's OK. Then always use condoms every time you have sex.
  • Have a checkup every year. See your provider between checkups if you are having symptoms of vaginal infection or discomfort during sex.
  • Call your healthcare provider right away if:
    • You have severe pain in your belly.
    • You vomit and cannot keep the medicine down.
    • You have a fever over 101.5°F (38.6°C).
    • You feel you are getting sicker rather than better.
    • Your symptoms come back after you have finished taking the antibiotic.

How can I help prevent chlamydial infection?

  • Lower the risk of infection by always using latex or polyurethane condoms during foreplay and vaginal, oral, or anal sex.
  • Have just 1 sexual partner who is not sexually active with anyone else. Make sure your partner has been tested for chlamydia and other sexually transmitted diseases.
  • If you have had sex without a condom and are worried that you may have been infected, see your healthcare provider even if you don’t have symptoms.
  • If you have been raped and are at risk of having been infected, you should be treated to prevent chlamydia and other infections.
  • If you are pregnant, ask your healthcare provider to test you for chlamydia so you can help prevent infection in the baby.

Developed by David W. Kaplan, MD, and Phyllis Cooper RN, MN.
Published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2011-02-07
Last reviewed: 2011-01-03

This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a health care professional.

Copyright © 1996-2016 The Children's Mercy Hospital