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Pelvic inflammatory disease facts*

*Pelvic inflammatory facts medical author: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

  • Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is an infection and inflammation of a woman's pelvic organs including the uterus (womb), Fallopian tubes (tubes), ovaries, and cervix.
  • PID is very common and is estimated to affect around 1 million women every year in the US.
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease usually develops as the result of spread of a sexually-transmitted disease (STD).
  • Most cases of pelvic inflammatory disease are caused by gonorrhea and/or Chlamydia, although several different types of bacteria can be responsible.
  • Young, sexually active women with multiple sex partners are at greatest risk for pelvic inflammatory disease. Douching and a history of PID are other risk factors.
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease many not produce any symptoms or signs (referred to as being asymptomatic). In other cases it can cause
  • The treatment of pelvic inflammatory disease involves antibiotics directed against the organisms responsible for the disease.
  • Complications of untreated pelvic inflammatory disease can include scarring of the pelvic organs and infertility.
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease can be life-threatening in severe cases.

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Pelvic Pain

Pelvic Inflammatory Disease Symptoms

Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is an inflammatory and infectious disease, and is a complication of a sexually transmitted disease (STD) such as gonorrhea. Common symptoms of pelvic inflammatory disease are

  • Pelvic pain that radiates to the abdomen
  • An abnormal vaginal discharge
  • Pain during intercourse or urination

What causes pelvic inflammatory disease?

Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is an infection of a woman's reproductive organs. Usually PID is caused by bacteria from sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Sometimes PID is caused by normal bacteria found in the vagina. If left untreated, PID can cause problems getting pregnant, problems during pregnancy, and long-term pelvic pain.

How common is pelvic inflammatory disease?

Each year in the United States, more than 1 million women have an episode of PID. More than 100,000 women become infertile each year because of PID. Also, many ectopic pregnancies that occur are due to problems from PID.

Are some women more likely to get pelvic inflammatory disease?

PID affects about 5 percent of women in the United States. Your risk for PID is higher if you:

  • Have had an STI
  • Have had PID before
  • Are younger than 25 and have sex. PID is most common in women 15 to 24 years old.
  • Have more than one sex partner or have a partner who has multiple sexual partners
  • Douche. Douching can push bacteria into the reproductive organs and cause PID. Douching can also hide the signs of PID
  • Recently had an intrauterine device (IUD) inserted. The risk of PID is higher for the first few weeks only after insertion of an IUD. PID is rare after that time period. Getting tested for STIs before the IUD is inserted lowers your risk for PID.

Picture of a woman's reproductive organs
Picture of a woman's reproductive organs

What are the signs and symptoms of pelvic inflammatory disease?

Many women do not know they have PID, because they do not have any signs or symptoms. When symptoms do happen, they can be mild or more serious. Signs and symptoms include:

  • Pain in the lower abdomen (this is the most common symptom)
  • Fever (100.4 F or higher)
  • Vaginal discharge that may smell foul
  • Painful sex
  • Painful urination
  • Irregular periods
  • Pain in the upper right abdomen

If you think that you may have PID, see a doctor or nurse as soon as possible.

What is the treatment for pelvic inflammatory disease?

Your doctor or nurse will give you antibiotics to treat PID. Most of the time, at least two antibiotics are used that work against many different types of bacteria. You must take all of your antibiotics, even if your symptoms go away. This helps to make sure the infection is fully cured. See your doctor or nurse again two to three days after starting the antibiotics to make sure they are working.

What should I do if I think I have an STI (sexually transmitted disease)

If you think you may have an STI, see a doctor right away. You may feel scared or shy about asking for information or help. Keep in mind, the sooner you seek treatment, the less likely the STI will cause you severe harm. And the sooner you tell your sex partner(s) that you have an STI, the less likely they are to infect you again or spread the disease to others.

To learn about STIs or get tested, contact your doctor, local health department, or an STI and family planning clinic. The American Social Health Association (ASHA) keeps lists of clinics and doctors who provide treatment for STIs. Call ASHA at 800-227-8922. You can get information from the phone line without leaving your name.

How can I keep myself from getting PID?

You may not be able to prevent PID. It is not always caused by an STI. Sometimes, normal bacteria in your vagina can travel up to your reproductive organs and cause PID. But you can lower your risk of PID by not douching. You can also prevent STIs by not having vaginal, oral, or anal sex. If you do have sex, lower your risk of getting an STI with the following steps:

  • Use condoms. Condoms are the best way to prevent STIs when you have sex. Because a man does not need to ejaculate (come) to give or get STIs, make sure to put the condom on before the penis touches the vagina, mouth, or anus. Other methods of birth control, such as birth control pills, shots, implants, or diaphragms, will not protect you from STIs.
  • Get tested. Be sure you and your partner are tested for STIs. Talk to each other about the testresults before you have sex.
  • Be monogamous. Having sex with just one partner can lower your risk for STIs. After being tested for STIs, be faithful to each other. That means that you have sex only with each other and no one else.
  • Limit your number of sex partners. Your risk ofgetting STIs goes up with the number of partners you have.
  • Do not douche. Douching removes some of the normal bacteria in the vagina that protect you from infection. Douching may also raise your risk for PID by helping bacteria travel to other areas, like your uterus, ovaries, and fallopian tubes.
  • Do not abuse alcohol or drugs. Drinking too much alcohol or using drugs increases risky behavior and may put you at risk of sexual assault and possible exposure to STIs.
  • The steps work best when used together. No single step can protect you from every single type of STI.

SOURCE: "Pelvic Inflammatory Disease." womenshealth.gov. Updated August 31, 2015.

Last Editorial Review: 8/31/2015

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Reviewed on 8/31/2015
References
SOURCE: "Pelvic Inflammatory Disease." womenshealth.gov. Updated August 31, 2015.

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