Pelvic Inflammatory Disease

Pelvic inflammatory disease overview

  • Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is an infection of the female reproductive system caused by bacteria.
  • Untreated, PID can cause damage to the ovaries and fallopian tubes, which may contribute to infertility.
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease is commonly caused by complications from a sexually transmitted disease (STD).
  • Oral antibiotics are the most common treatment for PID, but more serious cases may require intravenous antibiotics or surgery.

What is pelvic inflammatory disease?

Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is an infection of the female reproductive system, causing scarring of the uterus, ovaries, fallopian tubes, cervix and vagina. Left untreated, PID can cause irreversible damage to the reproductive system and result in a woman’s infertility.

Pelvic inflammatory disease is the most common treatable cause of fertility problems. Early treatment is key to avoiding infertility.

PID can also cause ectopic pregnancy, in which the fertilized egg cannot pass through the fallopian tube to the uterus and implants outside the uterus instead, generally in the fallopian tube. This can be a life-threatening condition.

Chronic pelvic pain is also caused by PID, due to scarring of the pelvic organs. This pain can last for years and usually occurs during ovulation and intercourse.

How Lily got pregnant after a diagnosis of PID

What causes pelvic inflammatory disease?

Bacteria causes PID. Complication from a sexually transmitted disease, usually gonorrhea or chlamydia, accounts for approximately 90 percent of all cases of pelvic inflammatory disease. Bacteria that enters the vagina during unprotected sex spreads to the ovaries, uterus or fallopian tubes.

Bacteria can also cause PID by entering the reproductive tract when the cervix’s normal barrier is broken. This can occur during an abortion, childbirth, insertion of an intrauterine device (IUD) and pelvic procedures.

Who is at risk for pelvic inflammatory disease?

  • Women with an untreated STD
  • Women who have had a prior case of PID or STD
  • Women who use an IUD for birth control
  • Women with many sexual partners, or whose sexual partner is active with others
  • Women who douche
  • Sexually active women who are 25 or younger

What are the symptoms of pelvic inflammatory disease?

Symptoms of PID can be mild or even non-existent. Physical symptoms of PID include:

  • Painful urination
  • Abnormal yellow or green vaginal discharge accompanied by an unusual odor
  • Vaginal bleeding between periods
  • Pain during sexual intercourse
  • Chills or high fever
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Pain or tenderness in the lower abdomen or lower back
  • Fainting or other signs of shock

If a woman experiences any of the symptoms above, she should see her doctor immediately.

Tests & treatment for pelvic inflammatory disease

Doctors generally diagnose pelvic inflammatory disease by reviewing symptoms, conducting a pelvic exam, and doing cultures and urine tests. Biopsy of endometrial tissue, ultrasound and even laparoscopic surgery to view pelvic organs may also be used in the diagnosis.

Pelvic inflammatory disease treated early can reduce damage to the reproductive system, but treatment will not undo any of the damage that has already happened.

Most cases of PID are treated with oral antibiotics. Although physical symptoms may subside after a few days of antibiotics, a woman with PID will need to take the antibiotics as prescribed by her doctor until the prescription is empty. If she stops taking the antibiotics too soon, the infection may return and cause more damage.

More advanced cases of pelvic inflammatory disease may require a woman to be admitted to the hospital for intravenous antibiotics or surgery to remove any abscesses caused by the infection.

In all cases of PID, the woman should abstain from sexual intercourse until she is clear of the disease. Her sexual partner(s) should also be treated with antibiotics in order to prevent the infection from returning.

If a woman has PID and struggles with infertility, there are several assisted reproductive treatments that can help her conceive.

Learn More About Fertility Treatment Options