Published on June 5, 2024 at 8:00 / Updated on June 21, 2024 at 8:00

Pelvic inflammatory disease, or PID, is an infection in the female reproductive system. It can affect the uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries.

If PID isn't treated in time, it can have serious consequences, including the following:

  • Sterility
  • Ectopic pregnancy (egg implants in a fallopian tube)
  • Persistent pain
  • Serious infection

The main symptom of PID is pain in the lower abdomen. The pain may worsen during sexual intercourse or when passing urine or stool. Other symptoms include fever, unusually heavy vaginal discharge that may have an unpleasant smell, and irregular vaginal bleeding.

Causes and triggers

PID is usually caused by bacteria introduced into the uterus during sexual intercourse. A sexually transmitted infection, such as gonorrhea or chlamydia, is often the cause. Bacterial vaginosis can also lead to PID.

Certain factors may contribute to an increased risk of PID:

  • Having sex without a condom
  • Having multiple or new sexual partners
  • Using vaginal douches
  • Having a history of pelvic inflammatory disease

Treatment

PID is treated with antibiotics. Recent and current sexual partners should also be treated to prevent new infections. All sexual activity with a partner should be avoided until the infection has completely resolved. If an abscess (an accumulation of pus) forms, surgery may be necessary.

Although PID is a treatable infection, the consequences are sometimes irreversible. The formation of scar tissue can lead to infertility and chronic pain.

When should I see a health care professional?

Consult your health care provider in the following cases:

  • You feel pain or pressure in your lower abdomen
  • You experience abdominal pain during sex
  • You experience unusual bleeding, such as between periods or after sex
  • You have coloured or foul-smelling vaginal discharge
  • You have difficulty urinating or experience pain when urinating
  • You or your partner have symptoms of a sexually transmitted infection
  • You have a fever (38°C or higher) along with any of the symptoms above

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