Cervicitis is a condition that may develop as a result of contacting a sexually transmitted disease (STD), and can lead to serious complications affecting the female reproductive system such as pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) and female infertility.
Approximately half of all women experience some form of cervicitis at one point in their lives, making cervicitis one of the most common gynaecological disorders affecting women’s reproductive health. Here’s what you need to know about cervicitis, prevention of cervicitis, and STD testing and treatment so that you can maintain a healthy reproductive system.
What is Cervicitis?
Cervicitis is characterized by the inflammation of the cervix, the lower, narrow end of the uterus that extends into the vaginal canal. In many cases, cervicitis results in no apparent STD symptoms. However, when symptoms of cervicitis do appear, they may be similar to other symptoms of sexually transmitted diseases or other complications affecting the female reproductive system.
When signs of cervicitis are experienced, they can include the following symptoms:
- yellow or greyish vaginal discharge with or without an odour
- frequent or painful urination
- painful intercourse
- vaginal bleeding or spotting between periods, after intercourse, or after menopause
- lower back pain
- itching or irritation of external genitalia
The first and most common sign to appear in individuals with cervicitis is an unusual vaginal discharge that becomes more apparent immediately following your menstrual period. A more severe case of cervicitis may cause a pus-like vaginal discharge that is accompanied by an unpleasant odour. You may also experience a fever or nausea if the infection has entered your system.
What Causes Cervicitis?
One of the functions of the cervix in the female reproductive system is to act as a barrier and protect the uterus from infection. The cervix prevents organisms such as bacteria and viruses that have come into contact with the vagina from infecting the uterus. However, the same organisms that cause vaginitis (the inflammation of the vagina) can cause the inflammation of the cervix, leading to cervicitis.
The most common causes leading to the inflammation of the cervix are sexually transmitted disease infections. More specifically, the following causes are typically linked to the development of cervicitis:
Other factors that may contribute to the development of cervicitis can include allergic reactions to contraceptive spermicides, latex condoms, or chemicals that have come into contact with the vagina.
In addition, cervicitis may be caused by bacterial overgrowth in the vagina, also known as bacterial vaginosis.
The long-term complications associated with cervicitis may depend on the cause of the condition. If cervicitis develops as a result of a gonorrhea or Chlamydia STD infection, the infection could spread to other parts of the reproductive system such as the fallopian tubes and uterine lining, which can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease (PID).
Prolonged cervicitis, or cervicitis that is not treated, can make it difficult or impossible for a woman to become pregnant. Abnormal mucus production can interfere with the sperms ability to enter the cervical canal, while PID can severely affect the ovaries.
Pregnant women who have developed cervicitis are at increased risk of miscarriage and premature delivery. A newborn delivered by a mother with cervicitis is also at increased risk of developing infections that can lead to pneumonia, eye infections, and blindness.
STD Testing , Prevention, and Treatment of Cervicitis
The best way to prevent the development of cervicitis is by making sure to receive a routine pap smear on a regular basis. A pap test, along with a pelvic exam, is the easiest methods of diagnosing cervicitis in its early stages.
Treatment of cervicitis typically involves treating the initial cause of infection. This is why practicing safe sex, whether through limiting the number of sexual partners or using condoms, is an important preventative measure when it comes to STDs and conditions such as cervicitis.
Medication will usually be prescribed in order to treat cervicitis and its cause. If cervicitis is caused by a bacterial infection, antibiotics will usually be administered. If the cause is viral, such as in the case of genital herpes, antiviral medication will generally be prescribed.
If the cause of cervicitis is a sexually transmitted infection (STI), your partner may require prescription medication as well.