Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID)
What is PID?
Pelvic inflammatory disease is a serious infection that develops when certain STDs or other infections aren’t treated. It can cause chronic pain and infertility.
What causes PID?
Pelvic Inflammatory Disease — also called PID — is an infection in your uterus, fallopian tubes, and/or ovaries. PID happens when bacteria moves from your vagina and cervix to other parts of your body. It can lead to chronic pain and other serious health problems, like infertility.
PID is usually caused by 2 sexually transmitted infections: chlamydia or gonorrhea. These STDs can be cured easily with antibiotics, but many people don’t know they have them because they usually don’t have symptoms — that’s why getting tested for STDs is so important.
If they’re not treated, chlamydia and gonorrhea can lead to PID. PID can also be caused by other untreated infections, like bacterial vaginosis.
PID is common — more than a million people get it every year.
What pelvic inflammatory disease symptoms should I look for?
Many people don’t know they have pelvic inflammatory disease in its earlier stages. PID often doesn’t show any symptoms, or the symptoms are so mild you don’t feel them — especially when you first get the infection. The longer you have PID, the worse the symptoms tend to get.
PID symptoms may include:
longer, heavier or more painful periods
pain in your belly
being very tired
- fever or chills
- bad-smelling vaginal discharge
pain during sex
If you have any of these symptoms, go to your doctor or to your local Planned Parenthood health center right away. PID can be dangerous if you don’t get treated.
Some PID symptoms can be mistaken for other health problems, like appendicitis or endometriosis. So getting checked out by a doctor is the only way to know for sure what’s going on.
What are the complications of PID?
If PID isn’t treated, it can lead to serious health problems that are sometimes life-threatening. The infection may spread to other parts of your body. PID can increase your risk for ectopic pregnancy, which can be life-threatening. People with PID can experience chronic pain in their lower belly, and infertility.
The longer you have PID, the more likely it is that you’ll have dangerous long-term health problems and infertility. That’s why it’s really important to have any symptoms checked out by a doctor, and get tested regularly for STDs — the sooner, the better.
PID can be treated. But treatment might not be able to undo damage (like scarring) caused by long-term PID infections.
How can I prevent PID?
Getting tested for STDs is one of the best ways to prevent PID, because PID is usually caused by chlamydia or gonorrhea. Most people with chlamydia or gonorrhea don’t have any symptoms, so testing is the only way to know for sure if you have one of these infections.
Chlamydia and gonorrhea can be easily treated and cured with antibiotics — and the sooner you (and any sexual partners) get tested and treated, the lower your risk is for developing PID. You can also help prevent these and other STDs by having safer sex and using condoms every time you have sex.
And hormonal birth control does NOT prevent sexually transmitted infections, so even if you’re using birth control you’re at risk for STDs. So it’s a good idea to use a condom with your birth control to prevent STDs that can turn into PID.
Douching is generally not healthy for your vagina, and can cause irritation and infections. Douching may also lead to PID, because it pushes bacteria deeper into your body. So don’t douche!
PID is really common, and it’s easy to develop PID without knowing it. That’s why it’s so important to get tested for STDs and see a doctor if you notice any symptoms of PID.