t won’t happen to me."
A phrase most young people live by. If a statistic says 95% success rate then people assume that it will work for them because ‘it won’t happen to me’. What they forget is that it has to happen to someone, otherwise the other 5% wouldn’t exist. This is the exact same opinion I had, until it did happen to me.
A lot of young people know that they are in the high-risk category for getting an STI, but just they don’t think it will happen to them.
I had been with a boy for 3 years during school and we were each other’s first so never used a condom. A bad habit to get into. After we broke up, I never used a condom with the guys I slept with either. I knew the risks and I knew it was the sensible thing to do, yet I still chose not to do it. Why? Because it won’t happen to me. It couldn’t possibly happen to me.
I guess you could say luck was on my side in an unlucky situation. I took regular home tests for chlamydia to ease my conscience when really, I should have been getting regular screenings at the sexual health clinic. What else might I have caught? I wasn’t even prepared to look consider the possibility.
I had my IUD replaced and a week or so afterwards was doubled up with pain – it felt like it was in my uterus. I put off going to the doctor because uterine pain is normal with IUD insertion and again an STI didn’t even cross my mind because there’s no way it could have happened to me.
But then after a few days I started to get a bit worried. I was prescribed Naproxen which is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) and was sent to have an ultrasound to check the placing of my coil. I was also swabbed for chlamydia. I said to the doctor as she did it, ‘I don’t even think you need to do that, there’s no way I could have it.’ How wrong I was.
I received a phone call from the surgery asking me to pick up a prescription. I was confused because I had already picked up my Naproxen and hadn’t yet been for the ultrasound so I didn’t know what else they could give me for my pain. As soon as I saw the name of the antibiotics I knew they must be because the chlamydia test had been positive. And I was furious. How could this have possibly happened to me?
Chlamydia can damage your fallopian tubes and, as my mother had a habit of telling me, I could be facing infertility if I wasn’t careful. Of course, she’d been saying that for a long time in an effort to make me use condoms and have regular screenings, but that seemed so far-fetched and so like the ramblings of a concerned mother who had no idea what I was up to, operating from only the ideas which she had in her head. That was up to the moment I was diagnosed with the infection.
After the fury came the fear. What if I couldn’t have children? Just because I didn’t use condoms? That’s crazy, impossible even. That couldn’t happen to me…could it? To be fair, you have to be pretty assertive to get guys to use them, it’s not an easy fight to win. But looking down the years to a childless future, it really did seem worth the fight.
What a lot of guys don’t realise is that chlamydia affects their chances of being a dad too. Not just because their partner might have damaged tubes but it damages male fertility too. Maybe if that was better publicised more men would use condoms by their own choice. And someone really needs to get rid of this ‘it feels so much better without them’ opinion which every boy seems to have. Because, quite frankly, it’s likely to be a load of rubbish.
At some point in all the worry, I realised, it was only a matter of luck that it hadn’t happened to me already. And even more luck that I had only had it for a maximum of 2 months, since I had taken a home test 2 months before which was negative. The coil insertion had meant that it had been found at an early stage…who knows how long I would have had the infection for before I managed to get around to a screening? Who knows how much damage would have been done by that point?
My ultrasound revealed that there was no lasting damage. Again, a complete stroke of luck and also a massive wake up call. Because what it made me realise is, it CAN happen to me. And it is most likely to happen again if I am not careful and don’t protect myself.
Chlamydia can be present without symptoms, so if I hadn’t got diagnosed, I could have had this infection for years and not known about it, it could have killed off all the little hairs in the fallopian tubes which swish the egg towards the uterus, and it could have scarred my reproductive organs permanently…and I would have been blissfully unaware. If I hadn’t got the test, I might only have found out when I got the stage of life when I wanted a baby and couldn’t get pregnant.
Thankfully, that’s not the situation that I’m in. However, it has made me reconsider the choices I will make in the future because next time I might not be so lucky.