PID at a Glance
- PID stands for pelvic inflammatory disease
- Common and serious complication of some sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)
- Often, there are no symptoms
- Condoms reduce your risk
STDs are very common. And sometimes, STDs can have serious complications, like pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). Learning more about PID is an important step in learning how to protect yourself.
Here are some of the most common questions we hear women ask about PID. We hope you find the answers helpful, whether you think you may have PID, have been diagnosed with it, or are just curious about it.
What Is PID?
You may have heard of pelvic inflammatory disease, or PID, but many people are not sure what it is. PID is a serious infection that harms a woman's reproductive organs. It develops when an infection spreads up from the vagina and cervix into the fallopian tubes, uterus, and ovaries. It is usually caused by untreated chlamydia or gonorrhea. But it may be caused by other infections.
Pelvic inflammatory disease is common. More than one million U.S. women get PID every year.
What Are the Symptoms of PID?
Many women do not know that they have pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). Some cases of PID may have no symptoms at all.
Later, when PID becomes worse, common symptoms include
- unusually long or painful periods, and unusual vaginal discharge
- spotting and pain between menstrual periods or during urination
- pain in the lower abdomen and back
- fever, chills
- nausea, vomiting
- pain during vaginal intercourse
Pelvic inflammatory disease is often difficult to identify because the symptoms seem like those of other conditions, such as appendicitis, urinary tract infections, ovarian cysts, and endometriosis.
How Can I Know If I Have PID?
A health care provider can diagnose pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) during a pelvic exam. Tests will also be done for chlamydia, gonorrhea, or other infections, because they often cause PID.
Your health care provider may also do
- blood tests
- tests of vaginal and cervical secretions
- a laparoscopy — an instrument is inserted through a small cut in the navel in order to look at the reproductive organs
The symptoms of PID can be confused with other infections. Be open with your health care provider about your sexual history to help make it easier to diagnose PID in its earliest, most treatable stages.
Is There a Treatment for PID?
Yes, there is treatment for pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). A health care provider may prescribe antibiotics for you to take, and ask that you rest in bed and abstain from sex for a while.
In more developed cases of PID, surgery may be needed to repair or remove reproductive organs.
If you are being treated for PID …
Take all of the prescribed medicine. Even if the symptoms go away, the infection may still be in your body until the treatment is complete.
Take good care of yourself.
- Rest in bed. You need several days of bed rest to treat a serious infection.
- Drink lots of fluids, and eat a healthy diet.
- Do not douche or use tampons.
- You may take aspirin, ibuprofen (like Advil), or acetaminophen (like Tylenol) for pain. You may also put a heating pad on your stomach.
Tell your partner(s) that you have an infection. Any recent partner will need to get checked and get medicine — even if feeling fine. If your partner(s) are not treated for any possible infections, such as chlamydia or gonorrhea, you can get PID again.
Do not have sex until you and your partner(s) have finished all the medicine, have been examined, and know that treatment is complete.
Keep your medical appointments to be sure you are better.
It is important to treat PID and to prevent it from coming back. Treatment for PID reduces the risk of complications, including infertility.
Complications of PID
If pelvic inflammatory disease goes untreated, it may result in serious, life-threatening complications. Infection can spread to the blood or to other parts of the body. PID can also result in the rupture of a fallopian tube.
Pelvic inflammatory disease also increases the risk of ectopic pregnancy, a potentially life-threatening condition in which a fertilized egg implants outside of the uterus, usually in a fallopian tube.
The signs of ectopic pregnancy include
- irregular bleeding from the vagina
- pain in the abdomen or tip of the shoulder
- sudden weakness or fainting
If you think you may have an ectopic pregnancy and can't reach your health care provider, go to a hospital emergency room right away.
Where Can I Get a Test or Treatment for PID?
Staff at your local Planned Parenthood health center, many other clinics, health departments, and private health care providers can diagnose pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) and help you get any treatment you may need.
How Is PID Spread?
Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is not always the result of a sexually transmitted infection — but in most cases it is. The sexually transmitted infections that most commonly cause PID are chlamydia and gonorrhea. They are spread by vaginal and anal intercourse, and rarely, oral sex.
How Can I Prevent Getting or Spreading PID?
- Practice safer sex. Because pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) can be sexually transmitted, using a latex or female condom can reduce the risk of PID.
- Don't douche. Though douching does not cause PID, it can spread infections from the vagina into the uterus and fallopian tubes, increasing the risk of PID.
- If you think you may have been exposed to chlamydia or gonorrhea, get tested. Most women with these sexually transmitted infections have no symptoms and may develop PID without knowing it.
Birth Control and PID
The birth control pill, patch, and ring offer some protection against pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). They thicken cervical mucus and prevent other infections from reaching the uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries. But keep in mind that they do not protect against sexually transmitted infections of the cervix and vagina.
Find Dr. Cullins' Answers to Common Sexual Health Questions
Q&A with Dr. Cullins