Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID)

What is pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)?

Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is an infection of a woman’s reproductive tract. It can affect the uterus, fallopian tubes, and the ovaries. PID can cause scar tissue that grows between internal organs and causes ongoing pelvic pain. It can also lead to ectopic pregnancy. This is when the fertilized egg grows outside the uterus. If left untreated, PID can lead to chronic infection. Also you may not be able to get pregnant.

What causes PID?

Bacteria cause PID. Often they are the same type of bacteria that causes sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).

Who is at risk for PID?

Women of any age can get PID. But those at greater risk of PID from sexually transmitted bacteria include:

  • Women under 25 who are sexually active
  • Women of childbearing age
  • Women who use intrauterine devices (IUDs). The risk is only during the first 3 weeks of use.
  • Women who douche often

What are the symptoms of PID?

These are the most common symptoms of PID:

  • Pain and tenderness spread throughout the lower part of the belly
  • Pelvic pain
  • Increased foul-smelling vaginal discharge
  • Fever and chills
  • Vomiting and nausea
  • Pain during urination
  • Belly pain (upper right area)
  • Pain during sex

The symptoms of PID may look like other health problems. Always talk with your healthcare provider for a diagnosis.

How is PID diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will ask about your health history and do a physical and pelvic exam. Other tests may include:

  • Exam of vagina and cervix samples under a microscope
  • Blood tests
  • Pap test. For this test, cells are taken from the cervix and checked under a microscope. It's used to find cancer, infection, or inflammation.
  • Ultrasound. This test uses high-frequency sound waves to make an image of the organs.
  • Laparoscopy. This is a minor procedure done using a thin tube (laparoscope) with a lens and a light. It is put into a cut (incision) in the belly (abdominal) wall to look at the reproductive tract.
  • Culdocentesis. For this test, the healthcare provider puts a needle into the pelvic cavity through the vaginal wall to get a sample of pus.

How is PID treated?

Treatment will depend on your symptoms, age, and general health. It will also depend on how severe the condition is.

Antibiotic pills are used to treat PID, especially if it’s caused by a STD. For severe infection, you may need to stay in the hospital for IV (intravenous) antibiotics. Sometimes, you may need surgery.

Key points about PID

  • Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is an infection of a woman’s reproductive tract. It can affect the uterus, fallopian tubes, and the ovaries.
  • If PID is left untreated, you can develop chronic infection and infertility.
  • It is caused by bacteria, often the same type of bacteria that causes STDs.
  • Sexually active women under age 25, and those of childbearing age are at the greatest risk of getting PID from an STD.
  • PID can cause pelvic pain, belly tenderness, vaginal discharge, fever, chills, and pain during urination and sex.
  • Treatment includes antibiotics, especially if you have a STD.

Next steps

Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your healthcare provider:

  • Know the reason for your visit and what you want to happen.
  • Before your visit, write down questions you want answered.
  • Bring someone with you to help you ask questions and remember what your provider tells you.
  • At the visit, write down the name of a new diagnosis, and any new medicines, treatments, or tests. Also write down any new instructions your provider gives you.
  • Know why a new medicine or treatment is prescribed, and how it will help you. Also know what the side effects are.
  • Ask if your condition can be treated in other ways.
  • Know why a test or procedure is recommended and what the results could mean.
  • Know what to expect if you do not take the medicine or have the test or procedure.
  • If you have a follow-up appointment, write down the date, time, and purpose for that visit.
  • Know how you can contact your provider if you have questions.
Medical Reviewer: Irina Burd MD PhD
Medical Reviewer: Donna Freeborn PhD CNM FNP
Medical Reviewer: Heather Trevino
© 2000-2022 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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