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Pelvic Inflammatory Disease

What is PID?

Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) is an infection of the uterus and fallopian tubes.  It is especially com­mon in sexually active women under the age of 25, but can occur in sexually active women of any age.   If not treated, PID can cause serious health prob­lems.

What causes PID?

PID is usually caused by bacteria that travel up the vagina into the uterus and fallopian tubes.  PID can be caused by many different bacteria, but is fre­quently caused by chlamydia or gonorrhea. Women under age 25 who are sexually active, women who have more than one sexual partner or women who douche are at increased risk for getting PID.  Wom­en are also at risk if they have more than one sex partner or their partner has other sex part­ners.  Having a prior episode of PID increases the risk of having it again.  Having an IUD inserted might increase the risk of PID soon after insertion but that risk is greatly reduced if a woman is tested and if necessary treated for infection before the IUD is inserted.

What are the symptoms of PID

Symptoms can vary from mild to severe.  Mild symptoms may go unrecognized by women and their health care providers. It can take a few days to several weeks for a woman to de­velop symptoms of PID after being infected.

Symptoms can include:

  • Vaginal discharge with a foul odor or unusual color
  • Painful intercourse
  • Painful urination
  • Abdominal pain or cramping in the pelvic organs
  • Irregular bleeding
  • Fever

How is PID diagnosed?

There is no one lab test to diagnose PID.  Women are usually tested for chlamydia and gonorrhea.  Di­agnosis is based on the symptoms a woman has and the findings on a pelvic exam. Because the conse­quences of untreated PID are so serious, healthcare providers err on the side of treating all women who might have PID recognizing that some women will be found to have another condition that is causing their symptoms.

How is PID treated?

Because PID can be caused by different bacteria, it is usually treated with more than one antibiotic, which includes coverage for gonorrhea and chlamydia.

It is important to finish all the antibiotics you are given to completely get rid of the infection. You should return to your provider in 3-4 days to make sure the antibiotics are working. Your partner should also be treated even if he has no symptoms to decrease risk of re-infection.

Women who are not treated or who have more than one episode of PID are at increased risk for chronic pelvic pain, infertility, and tubal pregnancy due damage to the fallopian tubes.

How can I prevent PID?

Abstaining from sexual intercourse is the only sure way to prevent PID. Being in a long term, mo­nogamous relationship is the next best strategy.

Protecting yourself from sexually transmitted in­fections (STIs) helps reduce your risk for PID.  This includes using condoms every time you have inter­course, limiting the number of sexual partners you have, abstaining from sex with infected partners, getting early treatment for symptoms of an STI, and getting routine STI screening tests.

Sources:

  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: www.cdc.gov/std
  • American College of Obstetricians and Gynecol­ogists (ACOG). Pelvic Inflammatory Disease. ACOG Patient Education Pamphlet, 1999.

Resources:

    • Division of STD Prevention (DSTDP) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - www.cdc.gov/std
    • CDC National Prevention Information Network (NPIN) 1-800-458-5231 - www.cdcnpin.org
    • American Social Health Association (ASHA)
    • P. O. Box 13827 Research Triangle Park, NC 27709-3827 1-800-783-9877 - www.ashastd.org