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Pelvic Inflammatory Disease

What is PID?

Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is a general term that refers to infection of the uterus (womb), fallopian tubes (tubes that carry eggs from the ovaries to the uterus) and other reproductive organs. It is a common and serious complication of some sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), especially chlamydia and gonorrhea.

How do I get it?

PID 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.

What are the symptoms of PID?

  • When PID is caused by chlamydia infection, a woman may experience mild symptoms or no symptoms at all, while serious damage is being done to her reproductive organs.
  • Women who have symptoms of PID most commonly have:
    • Lower abdominal pain
    • Fever
    • Unusual vaginal discharge that may have a foul odor
    • Painful intercourse
    • Painful urination
    • Irregular menstrual bleeding
    • Pain in the right upper abdomen

Symptoms of PID vary from none to severe!

How can I prevent getting PID?

The best way to prevent getting PID is to avoid sexual contact with an infected person with a sexually transmitted disease. One way to do this is by practicing abstinence. Abstinence means not having sex with anyone. Another way to prevent PID is by having only one partner who only has sex with you.

People who decide to have sex, especially if they have multiple partners, must be responsible for protecting themselves and others from infections. Do this by knowing the right way to use condoms and using them every time you have sex. Condoms can help prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases. Though not 100% effective, condoms are the best protection. Even if using another birth control method, use a condom if there is a risk of getting a sexually transmitted disease during sex. Also, it is important to avoid abusing alcohol and drugs because they can prevent you from making safe choices to protect your health.

Is there a test and treatment for PID?

There are no precise tests for PID and a diagnosis is usually based on clinical findings. If symptoms such as lower abdominal pain are present, a health care provider should perform a physical examination to determine the nature and location of the pain and check for fever, abdominal vaginal or cervical discharge and evidence of gonorrheal or chlamydial infection. If the findings suggest PID, treatment with antibiotics is necessary.

PID can be cured with several types of antibiotics. Your doctor will determine and prescribe the best therapy. However, antibiotic treatment does not reverse any damage that has already occurred to the reproductive organs. If a woman has pelvic pain and other symptoms of PID, it is critical that she seek care immediately. Prompt antibiotic treatment can prevent severe damage to reproductive organs. The longer a woman delays treatment for PID, the more likely she is to become infertile or to have a future ectopic pregnancy because of damage to the fallopian tubes. If you are pregnant, get tested for STDs and HIV early and again late in your pregnancy. If you think you have symptoms, call the Department of Health for confidential referral and treatment.

What happens if I have PID and I am not treated?

Without treatment, PID can cause permanent damage to the female reproductive organs. Infection-causing bacteria can silently invade the fallopian tubes, causing normal tissue to turn into scar tissue. This scar tissue blocks or interrupts the normal movement of eggs into the uterus. If the fallopian tubes are totally blocked by scar tissue, sperm cannot fertilize an egg, and the woman becomes infertile (unable to have children). Women who have had PID are at higher risk for:

  • Infertility
  • Ectopic (tubal) pregnancy
  • Chronic pelvic pain

For more information, referrals or CONFIDENTIAL treatment, contact:

STD Program
Anne Arundel County Department of Health
1 Harry S. Truman Parkway, Suite 200
Annapolis, Maryland 21401
410-222-7382
Monday - Friday, 8:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.