Updated July 2015
What is it?
Pelvic Inflammatory Disease is an infection of the female reproductive organs, specifically the uterus, fallopian tubes and ovaries.
What causes it?
A person can get PID:
- if they have had unprotected sexual intercourse
- if they have had an untreated sexually transmitted infection (STI) such as chlamydia or gonorrhea
- if a vaginal infection spreads from the vagina to the uterus and fallopian tubes
- if normal bacteria from the vagina pass into the uterus and fallopian tubes
- if they have an untreated STI or vaginal infection at the time they had an abortion
- rarely, within the first month after an IUD insertion
A person who has had PID in the past is at higher risk of getting it again.
What are the symptoms?
A person with PID may have some of the following signs and symptoms:
- pain in the pelvic area or lower abdomen
- unusual and/or increased vaginal discharge
- pain during or after vaginal intercourse
- bleeding from the vagina when it is not a menstrual period
Sometimes the symptoms go unnoticed because they are mild. Some individuals do not have any signs until PID has caused damage.
What should I do if I think I have PID?
You should see your health care provider or go to a sexual health clinic.
How is it diagnosed and treated?
- Your health care provider will ask you some questions, do a physical examination including a pelvic exam and take some tests for sexually transmitted infections and vaginal infections.
- If you are diagnosed with PID, you will be treated with antibiotics.
- You may be asked to return to the clinic to be re-examined in 2 or 3 days. This is very important.
- You may have to go to the hospital for further tests and treatment.
What are the complications?
- The longer PID is left untreated, the greater the chance of serious damage.
- The infection can damage the fallopian tubes. If this happens, it may be more difficult to become pregnant in the future. It also increases the risk of an ectopic pregnancy (pregnancy in the fallopian tubes).
- Possible chronic pelvic pain, abscesses and/or scarring.
How can I prevent PID?
- Use latex condoms every time you have sexual intercourse unless you are sure neither you nor your partner has an infection. Both of you need to be tested to be sure of this.
- If you think you have an infection, go to the clinic or doctor to get tested.
- If you get an STI, make sure that you finish all of your medications and return to your doctor if you have been instructed to do so.
Can partners get PID?
- PID is only possible in individuals who have female reproductive organs, but any sexual partner can get an infection from the STIs that can cause PID, such as chlamydia and gonorrhea.
- When someone has PID regardless of whether or not they tested positive for an infection, their partner(s) must be treated for chlamydia and gonorrhea. This is because sometimes the bacteria that cause these infections can travel so far up in the reproductive organs that it cannot be reached by a test. If these bacteria are not treated, they can be passed back and forth the next time the couple has sex without a condom.
- Chlamydia and gonorrhea left untreated can cause pain and swelling in a person's testicles (epididymitis).
Is follow-up important?
YES. Once you have been diagnosed with PID it is very important to follow up with your health care provider as instructed. If you are taking medication and do not feel better within two days, make sure to tell them. If your health care provider has asked you to come back, make sure that you do. It is very important that PID is cured to prevent further complications
To reduce your risk of getting a Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI), use a condom every time you have genital contact, vaginal, anal or oral sex.