What is pelvic inflammatory disease?
Pelvic inflammatory disease, also called PID, is an infection of the female reproductive organs. PID is considered as one of the most serious complications of a sexually transmitted disease in women: It can lead to irreversible damage to the uterus, ovaries, fallopian tubes, or other parts of the female reproductive system, and is the primary preventable cause of infertility in women.
How common is pelvic inflammatory disease?
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, pelvic inflammatory disease is common and affects about 1 million women each year in the United States. The rate of infection is highest among teenagers.
However, it can be managed by reducing your risk factors. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.
What are the symptoms of pelvic inflammatory disease?
Some common signs and symptoms of pelvic inflammatory disease may include:
- Pain in your lower abdomen and pelvis
- Heavy vaginal discharge with an unpleasant odor
- Irregular menstrual bleeding
- Pain during intercourse
- Painful or difficult urination
PID may cause only minor signs and symptoms or none at all. PID with mild or no symptoms is especially common when the infection is due to chlamydia.
When should I see my doctor?
You should contact your doctor if you have any of the following:
- Severe pain low in your abdomen
- Nausea and vomiting, with an inability to keep anything down
- Fever, with a temperature higher than 101 F (38.3 C)
- Foul vaginal discharge
What causes pelvic inflammatory disease?
Pelvic inflammatory disease can be caused by a great number of bacteria but are most often caused by gonorrhea or chlamydia infections. These bacteria are usually acquired during unprotected sex.
Less commonly, bacteria may enter your reproductive tract anytime the normal barrier created by the cervix is disturbed. This can happen after intrauterine device (IUD) insertion, childbirth, miscarriage or abortion.
What increases my risk for pelvic inflammatory disease?
Your risk of pelvic inflammatory disease will increase if you experience gonorrhea or chlamydia. However, you can develop PID without ever having the sexually transmitted infection. Other factors that can cause pelvic inflammatory disease include:
- Having sex and being under the age of 25
- Having sex with more than one person
- Having sex without a condom
- Using an intrauterine device (IUD) to prevent a pregnancy
- A history of pelvic inflammatory disease
Diagnosis & treatment
The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.
How is pelvic inflammatory disease diagnosed?
If your doctor suspects that you may experience this condition, a physical examination will be performed and some tests will be also recommended by your doctor. During the pelvic exam, your doctor uses a cotton swab to take samples from your vagina and cervix. The samples are sent to a lab for analysis to determine the organism that’s causing the infection.
In order to confirm the diagnosis or to determine how widespread the infection is, your doctor may recommend other tests, such as:
This test uses sound waves to create images of your reproductive organs.
During this procedure, your doctor removes a small piece of your uterine lining (endometrium) for testing.
During this procedure, your doctor inserts a thin, lighted instrument through a small incision in your abdomen to view your pelvic organs.
How is pelvic inflammatory disease treated?
- Some medications may be ordered such as antibiotics
- Your doctor may prescribe a combination of antibiotics to start taking right away. After receiving your lab test results, your doctor may adjust the medications you’re taking to better match what’s causing the infection.
- Usually, your doctor will request a follow-up visit in three days to make sure the treatment is working. Be sure to take all of your medication, even if you start to feel better after a few days. Antibiotic treatment can help prevent serious complications but can’t reverse any damage that’s already been done.
- Treatment for your partner is also recommended. To prevent reinfection with a sexually transmitted infection, advise your sexual partner or partners to be examined and treated. Partners can be infected and not have any noticeable symptoms.
- Avoid sexual intercourse until treatment is completed and tests indicate that the infection has cleared in all partners.
- In some more-serious cases, outpatient treatment is adequate for treating most women with pelvic inflammatory disease. However, if you’re seriously ill, pregnant or haven’t responded to oral medications, you may need hospitalization.
- Surgery is rarely necessary. However, if an abscess ruptures or threatens to rupture, your doctor may drain it.
Lifestyle changes & home remedies
What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage pelvic inflammatory disease?
Following these tips can help you to prevent this condition:
- Practice safe sex
Use condoms every time you have sex, limit your number of partners and ask about a potential partner’s sexual history.
- Talk to your doctor about contraception
Some forms of contraception may affect your risk of developing pelvic inflammatory disease.
- Use of a birth control pill alone offers no protection against acquiring STIs
But the pill may offer some protection against the development of PID by causing your body to create thicker cervical mucus, making it more difficult for bacteria to reach your uterus, fallopian tubes or ovaries. It’s still important to use a condom every time you have sex, however.
- Get tested
If you’re at risk of an STI, such as chlamydia, make an appointment with your doctor for testing. Set up a regular screening schedule with your doctor, if you need to. Early treatment of an STI gives you the best chance of avoiding pelvic inflammatory disease.
- Request that your partner be tested
If you have pelvic inflammatory disease or an STI, you should advise your partner to be tested and, if necessary, treated. This can prevent the spread of STIs and possible recurrence of PID.
- Pay attention to hygiene habits
Wipe from front to back after urinating or having a bowel movement to avoid introducing bacteria from your colon into the vagina.
If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
Pelvic inflammatory disease. http://www.webmd.com/women/guide/sexual-health-your-guide-to-pelvic-inflammatory-disease#2 . Accessed February 7, 2017.
Pelvic inflammatory disease. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/pelvic-inflammatory-disease/basics/prevention/con-20022341 . Accessed February 7, 2017.
Pelvic inflammatory disease. http://www.healthline.com/health/pelvic-inflammatory-disease-pid#Overview1 . Accessed February 7, 2017.
Review Date: July 18, 2017 | Last Modified: September 13, 2019