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Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)

Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is usually caused by an infection of a woman's upper genital tract, including the ovaries, fallopian tubes and the womb.

PID can be caused by bacterial infections and sexually transmitted infections, and can cause infertility.

What causes pelvic inflammatory disease?

Many types of bacteria can cause pelvic inflammatory disease - and several types may be involved during an infection. As well as sexually transmitted infections, bacteria from the vagina can cause infections higher up the genital tract in some cases.

Other risks of PID include abortions, childbirth, pelvic procedures, cervix damage or use of the coil contraceptive devices (intrauterine contraceptive device).

What are the symptoms of pelvic inflammatory disease?

Symptoms of PID may include:

  • Lower abdominal and pelvic area pain
  • Pain while having sex
  • Pain when urinating
  • Vaginal bleeding after having sex or between periods
  • Heavy, more painful periods
  • Abnormal vaginal discharge that may be green or yellow
  • Fever
  • Nausea and vomiting.

How is pelvic inflammatory disease diagnosed?

Diagnosis of pelvic inflammatory disease will be based on the symptoms, the woman's medical history and a pelvic examination to look for any vaginal discharge or tender areas.

Swabs will be taken to be tested for sexually transmitted infections.

Other tests may be arranged, including a pregnancy test, blood tests and transvaginal (internal) ultrasound scan.

Further investigations may be needed, including a laparoscopy procedure to look inside the abdomen and take tissue sample biopsies.

What is the treatment for pelvic inflammatory disease?

After a diagnosis of pelvic inflammatory disease, a course of antibiotics will usually be started. The choice of antibiotics will depend on individual circumstances, and the doctor will need to know if a woman is pregnant before making this decision.

Painkillers may also be recommended.

If the coil is used for contraception, this will usually be removed.

Follow-up appointments will be needed if symptoms don’t improve.

Sexual partners may need treatment to avoid re-infection.

If an abscess forms around the fallopian tube or ovaries as a result of the infection, a laparoscopy procedure may be needed to remove this.

What problems could pelvic inflammatory disease cause?

With recurrent pelvic inflammatory disease, the fallopian tubes can become scarred, which can affect fertility.

Ectopic (tubal) pregnancy is also more likely.

Long-term (chronic) pelvic pain is also possible, which can make sleep difficult and increases the risk of depression.

How can I prevent pelvic inflammatory disease?

Having safer sex using male condoms is the main way to avoid sexually transmitted infections and the risk they pose to developing pelvic inflammatory disease.

Make sure you attend routine gynaecological appointments when invited to help early detection of any problems.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on August 14, 2016

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