Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID)
What is PID?
Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is an infection of a woman’s reproductive organs. It usually occurs when sexually transmitted bacteria spread from your vagina to your uterus, fallopian tubes, or ovaries. It is a complication often caused by some STDs, like chlamydia and gonorrhea. Other infections that are not sexually transmitted can also cause PID.
Untreated STDs can cause PID in women. Out of 100 women with a history of PID, 12 to 13 of them experience difficulties getting pregnant, such as formation of scar tissue both outside and inside the fallopian tubes that can lead to tubal blockage. You can prevent PID if you know how to protect yourself.
What are the symptoms of PID?
You may not realize you have PID because your symptoms may be mild, or you may not experience any symptoms. However, if you do have symptoms, you may notice:
- Pain in your lower abdomen.
- An unusual discharge with a bad odor from your vagina.
- Pain and/or bleeding when you have sex.
- Burning sensation when you urinate.
- Bleeding between periods.
Severe symptoms indicating you need to see a medical provider immediately may include:
- Severe pain in your lower abdomen.
- Signs of shock including fainting.
- Fever with a temperature higher than 101°F.
What are the risk factors for PID?
A risk factor is the chance that something will harm or otherwise affect your health.
Your risks for PID are increased if you:
- Have an STD and do not get treated.
- Have multiple sex partners.
- Have a sex partner who has sex partners other than you.
- Have had PID before.
- Are sexually active and are age 25 or younger.
- Douche—this can upset the balance of good versus harmful bacteria and mask symptoms of infection.
- Use an IUD for birth control. However, the small increased risk is mostly limited to the first three weeks after the IUD is placed inside the uterus by a healthcare provider.
- Do not use latex condoms the right way every time you have sex.
Are there tests for PID?
There are no tests for PID. A diagnosis is usually based on a combination of your medical history, physical exam, and other test results such as STD tests for gonorrhea and chlamydia, which are infections that can cause PID.
- Be examined by your doctor if you notice any of the symptoms listed above.
- Promptly see a doctor if you think you or your sex partner(s) have or were exposed to an STD.
- Promptly see a doctor if you have any genital symptoms such as an unusual sore, a smelly discharge, burning when peeing, or bleeding between periods.
- Get a test for chlamydia every year if you are sexually active and younger than 25 years old.
- Have an honest and open talk with your healthcare provider if you are sexually active and ask whether you should be tested for other STDs.
How is PID treated?
If PID is diagnosed early, it can be treated with antibiotics. However, treatment will not undo any damage that has already happened to your reproductive system. The longer you wait to get treated, the more likely it is that you will have complications from PID. While taking antibiotics, your symptoms may go away before the infection is cured. Even if symptoms go away, you should finish taking all of your medicine. Be sure to tell your recent sex partner(s), so they can get tested and treated for STDs, too. It is also very important that you and your partner(s) finish treatment before having any kind of sex so that you do not re-infect each other.
You can get PID again if you get infected with an STD again. Also, if you have had PID before, you have a higher chance of getting it again.
What happens if I don't get treated?
If diagnosed and treated early, the complications of PID can be prevented. If you do not get treated, some of the complications of PID are:
- Formation of scar tissue both outside and inside the fallopian tubes that can lead to tubal blockage.
- Ectopic pregnancy (pregnancy outside the womb).
- Infertility (inability to get pregnant).
- Long-term pelvic/abdominal pain.
Did You Know?
The risk for PID is higher if an STD goes untreated.
Content last reviewed on February 19, 2018