Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)

Rochester, Minnesota - Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is an infection of the female reproductive organs. It usually occurs when sexually transmitted bacteria spread from your vagina to your uterus, fallopian tubes or ovaries.

Many women who develop pelvic inflammatory disease either experience no signs or symptoms or don't seek treatment. Pelvic inflammatory disease may be detected only later when you have trouble getting pregnant or if you develop chronic pelvic pain.

Symptom

 

Signs and symptoms of pelvic inflammatory disease may include:

  • Pain in your lower abdomen and pelvis
  • Heavy vaginal discharge with an unpleasant odor
  • Irregular menstrual bleeding
  • Pain during intercourse
  • Fever
  • Painful or difficult urination

PID may cause only minor signs and symptoms or none at all. PID with mild or no symptoms is especially common when the infection is due to chlamydia.

When to see a doctor

Go to the emergency room if you experience the following severe signs and symptoms of PID:

  • Severe pain low in your abdomen
  • Vomiting
  • Signs of shock, such as fainting
  • Fever, with a temperature higher than 101 F (38.3 C)

If your signs and symptoms aren't severe, but they're persistent, see your doctor as soon as possible. Vaginal discharge with an odor, painful urination or bleeding between menstrual cycles can be associated with a sexually transmitted infection (STI). If these signs and symptoms appear, stop having sex and see your doctor soon. Prompt treatment of an STI can help prevent PID.

Causes

Pelvic inflammatory disease can be caused by a number of bacteria but are most often caused by gonorrhea or chlamydia infections. These bacteria are usually acquired during unprotected sex.

Less commonly, bacteria may enter your reproductive tract anytime the normal barrier created by the cervix is disturbed. This can happen after intrauterine device (IUD) insertion, childbirth, miscarriage or abortion.

Risk factors

 

A number of factors may increase your risk of pelvic inflammatory disease, including:

  • Being a sexually active woman younger than 25 years old
  • Having multiple sexual partners
  • Being in a sexual relationship with a person who has more than one sex partner
  • Having sex without a condom
  • Having had an IUD inserted recently
  • Douching regularly, which upsets the balance of good versus harmful bacteria in the vagina and may mask symptoms that might otherwise cause you to seek early treatment
  • Having a history of pelvic inflammatory disease or a sexually transmitted infection

Complications

 

Untreated pelvic inflammatory disease may cause scar tissue and collections of infected fluid (abscesses) to develop in your fallopian tubes and damage your reproductive organs. Complications may include:

  • Ectopic pregnancy. PID is a major cause of tubal (ectopic) pregnancy. In an ectopic pregnancy, the fertilized egg can't make its way through the fallopian tube to implant in the uterus. Ectopic pregnancies can cause massive, life-threatening bleeding and require emergency surgery.
  • Infertility. PID may damage your reproductive organs and cause infertility — the inability to become pregnant. The more times you've had PID, the greater your risk of infertility. Delaying treatment for PID also dramatically increases your risk of infertility.
  • Chronic pelvic pain. Pelvic inflammatory disease can cause pelvic pain that may last for months or years. Scarring in your fallopian tubes and other pelvic organs can cause pain during intercourse and ovulation.

Additional information