About Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
A woman can get Pelvic inflammatory disease if bacteria move up from her vagina and infect her pelvic organs that cause symptoms such as lower abdominal pain. Many different types of bacteria can cause Pelvic inflammatory disease. But, most cases of PID are caused by bacteria that cause 2 common sexually transmitted infections — gonorrhea and chlamydia. It can take from a few days to a few months for an infection to travel up from the vagina to the pelvic organs. PID can damage the fallopian tubes and tissues in and near the uterus and ovaries. Pelvic inflammatory disease can lead to serious consequences including infertility, ectopic pregnancy (a pregnancy in the fallopian tube or elsewhere outside of the womb), abscess formation, and chronic pelvic pain.
You can get PID without having an STI. Normal bacteria found in the vagina and on the cervix can sometimes cause PID. No one is sure why this happens. Pelvic inflammatory disease occurs when bacteria move upward from a woman’s vagina or cervix (opening to the uterus) into her reproductive organs. Many different organisms can cause PID, but many cases are associated with gonorrhea and chlamydia, two very common bacterial STDs. A prior episode of PID increases the risk of another episode because the reproductive organs may be damaged during the initial bout of infection.
The more sex partners a woman has, the greater her risk of developing PID. Also, a woman whose partner has more than one sex partner is at greater risk of developing PID, because of the potential for more exposure to infectious agents. Women who have an intrauterine device (IUD) inserted may have a slightly increased risk of PID near the time of insertion compared with women using other contraceptives or no contraceptive at all. However, this risk is greatly reduced if a woman is tested and, if necessary, treated for STDs before an IUD is inserted.
Symptoms of PID
For women who have them, symptoms can range from mild to severe. The most common symptom of PID is pain in your lower abdomen (stomach area). Other symptoms include:
• Vaginal discharge that may smell foul
• Painful sex
• Painful urination
• Irregular periods (monthly bleeding)
• Pain in the upper right abdomen
Causes of PID
• Have had an STI
• Are under 25 years of age and are having sex
• Have more than 1 sex partner
• Douche. Douching can push bacteria into the pelvic organs and cause infection. It can also hide the
signs of an infection.
• Have an intrauterine device (IUD). You should get tested and treated for any infections before getting
an IUD. This will lower your risk of getting PID.
What are the risk factors for PID?
The same things that put you at risk for STIs also put you at risk for PID. Risk factors for PID include:
• Being a sexually active woman younger than 25 years of age.
• Having multiple sexual partners.
• Having unsafe sexual habits.
• Douching regularly (which can flush the bacteria up into your genital tract).
How do I practice safe sex?
Avoid sexual contact with people who are at risk of infection. If you decide to have sex, first ask your partner if he or she has any risks for infection. Both men and women can carry STIs and not have any symptoms, which is why regular screening for STIs is important. A male partner should always wear a condom during sexual activity. Even though the condom will not prevent 100% of STIs, it will greatly reduce your chances of getting infected. Remember, only a condom can provide some protection against STIs. Other forms of birth control don’t provide this protection.
What can happen to my body if I get PID?
Early and complete treatment can help prevent complications of PID. However, if PID isn’t treated, it can cause permanent damage to your internal organs. Scar tissue can form in the fallopian tubes and around the abdomen. This tissue can prevent pregnancy or cause the pregnancy to form outside the uterus (called a tubal or ectopic pregnancy). Scarring can cause pain that lasts for months or even years. Occasionally, the effects of PID can be so severe that surgery is required to remove pus, get rid of scar tissue or remove damaged organs.
PID is more likely to come back if you are exposed to STIs again. Each time you have PID causes more damage and a greater possibility of complications.