Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is an infection of the female reproductive organs. It usually occurs when sexually transmitted bacteria spread from your vagina to your uterus and upper genital tract.
Many women who develop pelvic inflammatory disease either experience no signs or symptoms or don't seek treatment. Pelvic inflammatory disease may be detected only later when you have trouble getting pregnant or if you develop chronic pelvic pain.
Pelvic inflammatory disease
Pelvic inflammatory disease is an infection of the fallopian tubes, ovaries, uterus and cervix. Untreated pelvic inflammatory disease may cause scar tissue and collections of infected fluid (...
Signs and symptoms of pelvic inflammatory disease may include:
PID may cause only minor signs and symptoms or none at all. Asymptomatic PID is especially common when the infection is due to chlamydia.
When to see a doctor
If your signs and symptoms aren't severe, but they're persistent, see your doctor as soon as possible. Vaginal discharge with an odor, painful urination or bleeding between menstrual cycles can be associated with a sexually transmitted infection (STI). If these signs and symptoms appear, stop having sex and see your doctor soon. Prompt treatment of an STI can help prevent PID.
Unsafe sexual practices that increase your likelihood of acquiring a sexually transmitted infection (STI) — such as unprotected sex with one or more partners — increase your risk of pelvic inflammatory disease.
Some forms of contraception may affect your risk of developing pelvic inflammatory disease. A contraceptive intrauterine device (IUD) may increase your risk of PID, but a barrier method, such as a condom, reduces your risk. Use of the 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 upper genital tract.
Bacteria may also enter your reproductive tract as a result of an IUD insertion, childbirth, miscarriage, abortion or endometrial biopsy — a procedure to remove a small piece of tissue from your uterine lining for laboratory analysis.
A number of factors may increase your risk of pelvic inflammatory disease, including:
Untreated pelvic inflammatory disease may cause scar tissue and collections of infected fluid (abscesses) to develop in your fallopian tubes and damage your reproductive organs. Complications may include:
Preparing for your appointment
If you have signs or symptoms of pelvic inflammatory disease, make an appointment to see your doctor or other health care provider.
Appointments can be brief and there's often a lot of ground to cover, so be well prepared for your appointment. Here's some information on what you can do to get ready and what to expect from your doctor.
What you can do
Some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
What to expect from your doctor
Tests and diagnosis
Doctors diagnose pelvic inflammatory disease based on signs and symptoms, a pelvic exam, an analysis of vaginal discharge and cervical cultures, or urine tests.
During the pelvic exam, your doctor uses a cotton swab to take samples from your vagina and cervix. The samples are sent to a laboratory for analysis to determine the organism that's causing the infection.
To confirm the diagnosis or to determine how widespread the infection is, your doctor may recommend other tests, such as:
Treatments and drugs
Antibiotics are the standard treatment for pelvic inflammatory disease. Your doctor may prescribe a combination of antibiotics before receiving the results of your laboratory tests. The antibiotics may be adjusted once your results are known. Your doctor may also prescribe a medication to relieve your pain and recommend bed rest.
To prevent reinfection with an STI, advise your sexual partner to be examined and treated. Avoid sexual intercourse until treatment is completed and tests indicate that the infection has cleared in all partners.
Surgery is rarely necessary. However, if an abscess ruptures or threatens to rupture, your doctor may drain it. In addition, surgery may be performed on women who don't respond to treatment or who have a questionable diagnosis, such as when one or more of the signs or symptoms of PID are absent. In these cases, doctors often try antibiotic treatment before surgery, because of the risks of surgery.
Coping and support
Often a diagnosis of pelvic inflammatory disease accompanies infection with a sexually transmitted infection. Finding out that you have an STI can be traumatic. Put your initial shock on hold so that you can take the steps immediately necessary to get treated and to prevent reinfection.
If you've experienced more than one episode of pelvic inflammatory disease, you're at greater risk of infertility. If you've been trying to become pregnant, without success, make an appointment with your doctor for an infertility evaluation. Your doctor or a reproductive health specialist may perform tests to determine whether or not your history of pelvic inflammatory disease is causing the problem — and if so, outline your options.
To reduce your risk of pelvic inflammatory disease:
Last Updated: 2011-05-24
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