Some things in life are better left in the past, and ex-lovers definitely rank high on that list. When you're ready to have a child, whether you have an SO or are doing it on your own, the last thing you want to think about are your previous sexual partners. Even worse is the idea that your past romances could have a negative impact on your ability to get pregnant. But does having multiple partners affect your fertility? According to Parents, the main risk is that "people with multiple sex partners are at the highest risk for STDs." And if you do have an STD, it's important to seek treatment as soon as possible to avoid harmful effects on your reproductive organs and fertility. But what about just the amount of sexual partners you've had?
"A number alone does not affect fertility," Dr. Amy Peters of Saddleback Memorial Medical Center in Laguna Hills, California tells Romper. She agrees with Parents that sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are the primary fertility issue with having multiple partners. However, not all STIs pose the same threat to your chances of conceiving.
"The STIs known to potentially impact fertility are those responsible for pelvic inflammatory disease (PID): gonorrhea and chlamydia. Chlamydia is very common and frequently has no symptoms — in fact, because 70 percent of women with chlamydia have no symptoms, they don’t seek treatment. STIs can cause ectopic pregnancy, tubal scarring, and additional reproductive issues, as well as infertility if not treated," Peters explains.
The good news? "Treatment is simple if the infection is caught early, and this can prevent future fertility issues. To reduce the risk of STIs and keep the infections from spreading, it’s important to use latex condoms and ensure all partners infected are treated whenever possible," advises Peters. She adds that women younger than 25 who have multiple partners are most at risk of contracting chlamydia and should be screened annually.
Dr. Yen Tran of Orange Coast Memorial Medical Center in Fountain Valley, California agrees that "having multiple sexual partners increases one's chances of contracting sexual transmitted infections like chlamydia, gonorrhea and Human Papilloma Virus (HPV)." Tran adds that PID can lead to scarring of the fallopian tubes, which would impede a woman's ability to conceive naturally. She explains that "if tubes are not opened, the fertilization process cannot be carried out. If the cilia (the transport system) within the fallopian is defected by being infected with chlamydia, then the embryo might get stuck inside the fallopian tube, which leads to ectopic pregnancy."
As for the effects of HPV on fertility, "HPV infection could lead to an abnormal pap smear requiring the loop electrosurgical excision procedure (LEEP), a method to remove abnormal tissue from the cervix that uses a fine wire loop with a low-voltage electrical current. LEEP is done after colposcopy and cervical biopsy have confirmed an abnormal Pap smear result. This procedure could cause scarring of the cervix, which could impair the sperm’s ability to travel down the fallopian tube to fertilize the egg," says Tran.
So if you're worried about your fertility, you'll need to look at your reproductive health. It doesn't really matter how many sexual partners you've had, but how safe the sex was. For a full screening of STIs and other reproductive conditions, talk to your healthcare provider.