Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID)

What is Pelvic Inflammatory Disease?

Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is an infection of the female reproductive organs. It is caused by a bacterial infection that most often spreads from the vagina to the uterus, fallopian tubes, and other areas in the pelvis. It frequently follows an untreated or inadequately treated, sexually transmitted infection, most commonly chlamydia and gonorrhea. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that approximately 1 million women in the US suffer from PID each year.

What are the Symptoms of PID?

The most common symptom is pain in the lower abdomen. Other common symptoms may include unusual discharge from the vagina, fever, nausea, painful sexual intercourse, bleeding between menstrual periods, fatigue, pain in the upper right abdomen, burning during urination, and frequent urination. In some cases, PID may not cause any symptoms at all.

Who is at Risk for PID?

Women who are sexually active, especially those under the age of 25, are at greater risk for PID. Other risk factors include having multiple sex partners, having unprotected sex, douching, a prior history of PID, and a family history of PID. Women with an intrauterine device (IUD) are also at greater risk.

Diagnosis and Treatment of PID

PID is typically diagnosed based on a combination of physical exam findings, including lab tests and imaging studies. The most commonly used test is a urine test to look for the presence of gonorrhea or chlamydia. Treatment generally includes antibiotics prescribed by your doctor. Depending on the severity of the infection, hospitalization may be necessary. It's important to take all of your antibiotics even if you start to feel better, as failure to do so may result in a recurrent or persistent infection.

Complications of PID

The most serious complication of PID is infertility. PID is a major cause of pelvic scarring and blockages in the reproductive tract, as well as tubal pregnancy and septic abortion. PID also increases a woman’s risk of ectopic pregnancy, a life-threatening condition. Other complications include chronic pelvic pain, pelvic abscesses, and pelvic pain during menstruation.

How to Prevent PID?

The most important way to prevent PID is to practice safer sex. This includes using condoms every time you have sex, limiting your number of sexual partners, and avoiding douching. Additionally, getting tested for STDs—especially chlamydia and gonorrhea—on a regular basis is a critical way to prevent PID.

  • Practice safer sex
  • Limit your number of sexual partners
  • Avoid douching
  • Get tested for STDs