From hormone imbalance to strange bumps to “something being totally off down there.”, women’s health problems almost seem taboo, like we should be ashamed to talk about them. But after working in a women’s health clinic for three years, I don’t find that any of it should be off-limits or embarrassing to talk about. And you shouldn’t either. So I hope to continue writing more posts about things women (of all ages) can relate to or at least find informative, so let’s get right into it.
There are many types of bacteria & infections that affect our hoo-hah, and most of them I had heard of before – bacterial vaginosis, yeast, chlamydia, etc. However, there was one extremely common bacteria that I had never heard of in my life: ureaplasma.
According to an article in Medical News Today, “Ureaplasma is a bacteria that is commonly found in people’s urinary or genital tract. It is parasitic, which means it needs a host, such as a human or animal, to survive. Ureaplasma bacteria are part of the body’s bacterial population, and they live in balance, without causing a problem, in most cases. Sometimes, however, they can increase in population, causing infection and health problems.
After a couple of months working in the clinic, I quickly learned just what types of female problems ureaplasma could contribute to. Many of the symptomatic patients complained of things like chronic UTIs or chronic bacterial vaginosis. After multiple trips to urgent care, and numerous rounds of antibiotics, they continued to have the same symptoms.
Some of the most common complaints were:
pain or burning when urinating
itching in and/or around the vaginal area
abnormal, foul-smelling discharge
pain during sex
The reason the symptoms did not go away is that the underlying cause, the ureaplasma, was not being treated. The medication for BV or most UTIs is not the same as the medication for ureaplasma. What our practice found the most effective was a seven-day course of doxycycline. Doxy is contraindicated in pregnancy, so if you’re pregnant, your doctor will need to find an alternative. It is also important that if you have a partner, they are treated at the same time as you. If they do not get treated, you run the risk of it being passed back to you, which brings me to the most common question regarding ureaplasma.
How Did I Get Ureaplasma? Is Ureaplasma An STI?
The technical answer is that no, it is not officially classified as an STI and is instead considered a bacteria. Many providers do not include this when you ask for an STI or STD screen. However, ureaplasma is extremely contagious and the main way it is passed from person to person is through sexual contact. Is it 1000% for sure that this is the only way you can get it? No. But the best way to avoid getting it is to abstain from sexual intercourse. Yes, abstinence.
So if you’re reading this, freaking out, thinking, “did my boyfriend cheat on me?”, take a deep breath. Just because you have ureaplasma, it doesn’t mean your boyfriend/husband cheated on you. You could have had it for a while and have been asymptomatic. Do not call your doctor’s office and ask if you partner cheated on you. I 1000% can tell you that they won’t know the answer to that.
Also, if you tell your partner and he thinks you cheated on him, and you know you didn’t, explain that this is something either one of you or even both of you could have had before getting together. Unless you did cheat on him and in that case, I really can’t help you. But on the happy end of things, ureaplasma is curable!
How Do I Get Tested For Ureaplasma?
Testing for females can be done by vaginal swab or urine culture. Make sure to ask your provider to test you for ureaplasma, as it is not commonly included in an STI panel.
Do I Need to be Treated if I Don’t Have Any Symptoms?
I 100% think you should treat. For one thing, why would you want to have something that you can pass on to your current or future partner? Secondly, there have been studies showing a correlation between ureaplasma and unexplained infertility. I have personally read stories in the infertility boards about ladies TTC and finding out they had this pesky infection. Lastly, ureaplasma can be passed on from a mother to her fetus or newborn, which can cause complications before, during or after delivery. We definitely do not want that. So my opinion is yes, be proactive and get rid of it before it can cause any issues.
I hope that this was enlightening for you, and if you’re someone that has been battling re-occurring UTI symptoms or BV, then ask your provider to test you for ureaplasma. You can thank me later!
UPDATE: In the past year, I’ve noticed that more and more people from out of state are contacting us about their ureaplasma diagnosis. They are having issues getting rid of it and their doctors aren’t sure what the issue is. At our clinic, we always have patients do a “test of cure” a couple weeks after they finish their medication. If they are still positive, it’s typically because their partner did not get treated or they had intercourse while taking the medication. It is very important that you not have any unprotected sex while taking the 7-day course of doxycycline.
For patients out of state, we find that they are being prescribed azithromycin, which is resistant to ureaplasma. As long as a patient is not pregnant or allergic, we will prescribe Doxycycline. *
It was brought to my attention that there is a Facebook support group for ladies that have had ureaplasma. You can request to join here.
*I’m not a doctor and this information should not be used in replacement of seeing a medical professional.