Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is an infection of the female reproductive organs. The reproductive system includes the uterus, fallopian tubes, ovaries, and surrounding tissues. The infection starts at the cervix, which is the opening of the uterus into the vagina. The infection then moves up through the whole reproductive system. Sometimes it spreads to other places inside the abdomen.
PID is most common among younger women who have sex, especially with multiple partners. It rarely happens after menopause.
Having sex with someone who is infected with gonorrhea or chlamydia is the most common cause. Normal bacteria found in the vagina and on the cervix can cause PID, but this is rare.
PID may also happen:
Sometimes there are no symptoms. When symptoms occur, they may include:
Your healthcare provider will ask about symptoms and give you a pelvic exam. Sometimes the pelvic exam is very uncomfortable due to pain in the uterus and tubes.
You may have the following tests:
You may have a test to see if you are pregnant because abdominal pain and vaginal bleeding can be symptoms of an ectopic (tubal) pregnancy. An ectopic pregnancy is a pregnancy that takes place outside the uterus.
You may need to have laparoscopy to confirm the diagnosis of PID. Laparoscopy is a surgical procedure done while you are under anesthesia. Your healthcare provider makes a small cut near your bellybutton and inserts a thin tube with a light and tiny camera through the cut. Your provider can then look at the organs in your abdomen and pelvis. If you have PID, your tubes and ovaries will be swollen and inflamed. Your provider may see pus, sores, or scar tissue on or around the female organs. Your provider may remove a sample of tissue (biopsy) for lab tests.
If your healthcare provider thinks you have PID, he or she may talk to you about testing for HIV (the virus that causes AIDS) and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
PID is treated with antibiotic medicine.
If you have pus in your pelvis (an abscess), you may need surgery to remove or drain it. If you have an IUD, your healthcare provider will probably remove it.
Your provider may prescribe pain medicine.
If your provider thinks your infection was caused by a sexually transmitted disease, others who have had sex with you must be examined and treated. This is necessary to keep you from getting infected again and to prevent spread of the infection to anyone else. Don’t have sex until both you and your partner have finished all of the medicine.
Your healthcare provider will probably want to see you again 2 to 3 days after you start your medicine. Your provider will check you to make sure the medicine has the infection under control. You also need to be checked 1 week after you finish all of the medicine to make sure that the infection is gone.
Most states have laws that require your healthcare provider to report sexually transmitted infections to the health department. If you have an STD, the clinic staff will ask about your sexual partners so they can be told that they have had contact with someone who has an STD. This will help them get prompt treatment for the infection. (Your name will not be given.)
You will start to feel better 2 to 3 days after starting the treatment. Make sure you finish all the medicine as prescribed.
If the infection is not treated, it could spread to other parts of your body or create an abscess in the fallopian tubes or ovaries. It might cause chronic (long lasting) pelvic pain.
PID can cause scarring of the fallopian tubes. This scarring could make it hard for you to get pregnant. Prompt and complete treatment is very important to try to keep your ability to have children. Scarring of the fallopian tubes also increases your risk of having a tubal pregnancy.
The following practices may help prevent PID: