Pelvic Inflammatory Disease
What is PID?
Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) is an infection of a woman’s reproductive system: uterus, ovaries, fallopian tubes and vagina. It is most 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 such as infertility, ongoing pain or increased risk of ectopic (tubal) pregnancy.
What causes PID?
PID is usually caused by bacteria that travel up the vagina into the uterus and fallopian tubes. PID is most often caused by chlamydia or gonorrhea, but may be caused by bacteria that are not sexually transmitted. 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 their partner has other sex partners. Having a prior episode of PID increases the risk of having it again. There is a small risk of PID immediately after an IUD insertion.
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:
- Abdominal pain or cramping in the lower abdomen
- Painful intercourse
- Vaginal discharge with a foul odor or unusual color
- Fever and/or chills
- Painful urination
- Unusual vaginal bleeding
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 and tenderness 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 may have another condition that is causing their symptoms.
How is PID treated?
PID is treated with antibiotics which also treat 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 1-4 days to make sure the antibiotics are working. Your partner should also be treated even if he has no symptoms.
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 to damage and scarring of the fallopian tubes.
How can I prevent PID?
Protecting yourself from sexually transmitted infections (STIs) helps reduce your risk for PID. Abstaining from sexual contact is the only sure way to prevent PID. Being in a long term, monogamous relationship is the next best strategy. Limiting your number of sexual partners will decrease your risk. Use a latex condom every time you have sex. Avoid having sex with infected partners, get early treatment for symptoms of an STI, and get routine STI screening tests. Have you had your HPV & Hepatitis vaccines to decrease your risk of other STI’s?
- 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.
- 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 Sexual Health Association (ASHA) 1-800-783-9877 - www.ashastd.org