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Pelvic inflammatory disease - What is pelvic inflammatory disease?

BMJ Group Medical Reference


If you've got pelvic inflammatory disease, you need to get treated quickly. Otherwise, the disease may damage your reproductive organs and stop you having a baby in the future. The disease is caused by an infection and can be cured with antibiotics.

We've brought together the best research about pelvic inflammatory disease and weighed up the evidence about how to treat it. You can use our information to talk to your doctor and decide which treatments are best for you.

Pelvic inflammatory disease (called PID for short) only happens to women. It means you've got an infection in your reproductive organs. These organs include your womb, your ovaries, your fallopian tubes (which carry the eggs from your ovaries to your womb), and surrounding parts of your pelvis.


Although PID is quite common, it isn't always easy to tell whether you have it. This is because the symptoms you get at the time can be mild. Or you may not feel ill at all.

But if you've got PID you will need to be treated quickly with antibiotics. If you're not treated quickly, your reproductive organs may get damaged. This can cause serious problems.

PID is almost always caused by an infection that you get from having sex (a sexually transmitted infection). PID happens when an infection that starts in your vagina affects your cervix (the neck of your womb) and then travels further to your womb, your fallopian tubes, and your ovaries. The infection can make your reproductive organs inflamed (swollen).

pid-anatomy_default.jpgIf your fallopian tubes get inflamed, scar tissue may be produced, and this can eventually block the tubes. The scar tissue can stop your eggs travelling from your ovaries to your womb. This makes it hard for you to get pregnant. And if you do get pregnant, the baby may start growing part way along your fallopian tube, instead of in your womb. This is called an ectopic pregnancy.[1]

PID is often caused by sexually transmitted bacteria. These bacteria cause the sexually transmitted diseases called gonorrhoea and chlamydia. But other bacteria also may cause PID.[1]

Any sexually active woman can get PID. But some women are more at risk than others. You're most likely to get PID if:[1]

  • You are younger than 25 years

  • You've had at least one or more sexually transmitted infections

  • You've had PID before

  • You have more than one sex partner (the more partners you have, the higher your chances of PID)

  • You've recently had an intrauterine contraceptive device (also called IUD or coil for short) put in.

Last Updated: June 21, 2012
This information does not replace medical advice.  If you are concerned you might have a medical problem please ask your Boots pharmacy team in your local Boots store, or see your doctor.
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