This Reason for Infertility in The Handmaid’s Tale is Very Real Today

I am obsessed with the Handmaid’s Tale.

I read the book a few years ago, so naturally when it premiered on Hulu, I binge watched the first three episodes in one night. It’s amazing to me that a dystopian novel written in the 1980s is so incredibly relevant today for so many obvious reasons.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the story line, here’s a quick synopsis:

A group of super far-right religious fanatics have taken over the United States and now control the country through force and terror. They are attempting to revert the nation into “traditional times” and have stripped women of all of their rights. Because of pollution, STDs, and other causes, most women are now infertile. The women who are fertile serve as handmaids for the wives of the community, and their sole purpose is to have sex with the wives’ husbands once a month in the hopes they will get pregnant and provide the wife with a child. Oh, and the handmaid lays in-between the wife’s legs while the husband has sex with her.

It’s totally okay to have “WHAT?!!” as a reaction right now.

Like any good dystopian novel, there are a number of parallels between The Handmaid’s Tale universe and the real world. The one that sticks out to me the most are the reasons why women are infertile: an increase in STDs that cause infertility and pollution (but we won’t focus on that right now).

The scary thing is, there is a rise in STDs in the United States right now.

In fact, syphilis rates have increased almost 20 percent in the last few years, while gonorrhea is close behind at 13 percent. Chlamydia grew the slowest with a six percent increase.

If left untreated, these can cause infertility in women.

Gonorrhea: Untreated gonorrhea can spread to the fallopian tubes or uterus and cause pelvic inflammatory disease. Pelvic inflammatory disease can damage the fallopian tubes so much that it causes infertility. Rarely does it cause infertility in men.

Chlamydia: Untreated chlamydia can affect you basically in the same way gonorrhea does.

In 2015 alone, the CDC reported over 1.5 MILLION cases of chlamydia and close to 400,000 cases of gonorrhea. And these are just the people who got tested!

The CDC suggests that there are an estimated 2.8 MILLION cases of chlamydia and 800,000 cases of gonorrhea that occur annually in the United States, with about half of them going undetected because people are not tested.

The good news is, gonorrhea and chlamydia can be cured if diagnosed and treated. The bad news is, a new strain of antibiotic resistant gonorrhea is rapidly spreading, which means it is much more difficult (but not completely impossible) to cure at this point in time. The CDC estimates that approximately 25 percent of people who are infected with gonorrhea have an antibiotic resistant strain.

The scary part? If the antibiotic resistant strain begins to evolve faster than the science, it could become incurable.

Also, it’s important to point out that you may never know you have chlamydia or gonorrhea UNLESS you get tested regularly, because most people are asymptomatic when they become infected (or the symptoms may not be severe enough for them to consult their doctor).

So get yourself tested regularly and be kind to humankind and stop the spread of infectious diseases. Lest The Handmaid’s Tale becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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