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Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID)

What is a Pelvic Inflammatory Disease?

Pelvic Inflammatory Disease is a general term that refers to an infection of the uterus (or womb), the fallopian tubes, and other reproductive organs. Sometimes PID is a serious complication of sexually transmitted diseases. PID can damage the fallopian tubes, and the tissue in the uterus and ovaries. This is why it is so important to diagnose and treat Pelvic Inflammatory Disease. Some consequences of leaving this condition untreated are: infertility, increased potential for ectopic pregnancy, an abscess in the uterus or tubes, and /or chronic pelvic pain.

Is PID a Common Problem?

It is estimated that more than 100,000 women become infertile each year as a consequence of PID. More than a million women each year experience an acute episode of PID in the United States alone. Some Experts feel that many ectopic pregnancies each year are caused by untreated PID.

How Do Women Get Pelvic Inflammatory Disease?

PID is caused by bacteria moving from the vagina or cervix, to the uterus and other reproductive organs. Many cases are associated with Chlamydia and gonorrhea, although these are not the only bacteria that cause PID. If you have had an episode of PID in the past, you are at higher risk of contracting PID again.

Sexually active women in the reproductive years have the most risk. Women under the age of 25 usually have a higher risk also. Doctors believe that this is because the cervix of younger women is not fully matured, making her more susceptible to the STD’s that contribute to PID.

Women who douche are at higher risk of developing PID. Research has shown that douching changes the natural bacterial balance in the vagina, and can contribute to driving bacteria into the upper reproductive organs.

The more sex partners a woman has, the more likely she is to develop PID. If a woman’s partner has had a number of other sexual partners, the woman again is at a higher risk. This is because the male partner has a greater chance of spreading STD’s to her.

Lastly, women who have IUDs inserted have a slightly higher risk for PIDs. This is usually due to existing, undiagnosed STDs present at the time of insertion. This is one of the most important reasons why we, at the Woman’s Health Centers, require in depth screening for STDs prior to inserting an IUD.

Signs and Symptoms of Pelvic Inflammatory Disease

Many women will experience lower abdominal pain. Other signs include fever, unusual discharge that may have a foul odor, painful intercourse, painful urination, irregular menstrual bleeding, or pain in the right upper abdomen. Some women experience no symptoms at all. This contributes to a delayed diagnosis. Serious damage can be done, while a woman has no indication of infection. An annual pap smear with thorough STD testing is important for all sexually active women.

How is PID Diagnosed?

PID can be difficult to diagnose unless a woman has symptoms. Standard STD testing, along with a good medical/reproductive health history and physical exam is the best defense. Your doctor can order tests to rule out other diagnosis with similar symptoms. Sometimes the doctor will order an ultrasound. In some cases, a laparoscopic exam is done (a lighted tube is inserted through a small incision in the abdomen). This allows the doctor to view the internal reproductive organs.

What is the treatment for Pelvic inflammatory Disease?

PID can be cured with antibiotics. Antibiotics do not however, reverse damage already done to the reproductive organs. Because of the difficulty in identifying exactly which organism is responsible for the PID, often, a combination of several antibiotics is prescribed. These antibiotics can be given orally or by injection. A woman’s partner should also be treated to prevent re-infection, even if the partner has no symptoms. Very severe cases may require hospitalization for IV antibiotics and/or surgery.

How can I protect myself from PID?

Get early treatment for STDs. Abstaining from all sexual activity prevents the spread of STDs but is an unlikely solution for most women. Long term, monogamous relationships with partners, who have been tested, and are known to be free of STDs is a good solution. The use of condoms lowers the risk of STD transmission. For women with multiple partners, especially under the age of 25, it is recommended that annual STD testing be done.

Any genital symptoms such as an unusual sore, discharge with odor, burning during urination, pain on intercourse, or bleeding between periods should be evaluated by your healthcare provider.

Sexual activity should not resume until both partners are examined and treated once an STD is suspected.