Pelvic Inflammatory Disease
Many women have never heard of pelvic inflammatory disease, also called PID. PID is an infection of a woman’s reproductive organs. It’s caused by bacteria that travel up through the vagina into the uterus, ovaries, and fallopian tubes. The infection may only affect the fallopian tubes. Or it may affect the uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries. PID can happen to any woman who is sexually active, but it’s most common in women under age 25.
Pelvic inflammatory disease can be caused in several ways. Having multiple sex partners raises a woman’s risk of PID. Having a sexually transmitted disease, or STD, such as gonorrhea or chlamydia is a risk factor. Use of an intrauterine device, or IUD, can also raise the risk of PID in the first few weeks after the IUD is put in. Some minor procedures done to the uterus or cervix can raise a woman’s risk of PID. Using a douche may also raise your risk.
The most common PID symptoms are pelvic pain, fever, and increased vaginal discharge. Some women experience pain during sex. You may also have pelvic pain but no fever or increased discharge. Some women have no symptoms, or symptoms are very mild and not recognized as a problem. This means treatment can be delayed, causing more serious problems.
To find the cause of your symptoms, you may have a pelvic exam. You may also have a transvaginal ultrasound. This is done with a wand that is placed in the vagina. The wand uses ultrasonic waves to create a picture of your pelvic organs.
In some cases, you may have a laparoscopic procedure. For this procedure, the surgeon inserts a thin tube into a small cut in your lower abdomen. This lets your provider see inside your pelvic area. The surgeon may also take a small piece of tissue to send to a lab for testing. This procedure is called a biopsy.
You will likely be tested for gonorrhea and chlamydia. If you have either of these STDs, as well as pelvic pain or fever, you may be diagnosed with PID. If you have PID, you may also be tested for HIV.
PID should be treated right away. Most cases of PID are cured with antibiotics taken by mouth for 10 to 14 days. You may also have an injection of antibiotics in a muscle in the arm or hip. If you have severe symptoms, are pregnant, or have other complications, you may need to have IV antibiotics given to you in the hospital. Antibiotics can cause a yeast infection. Tell your healthcare provider if you have symptoms of a yeast infection. These include vaginal itching and smelly discharge.
If PID is found and treated early, it rarely causes long-term problems. In some cases, however, a woman may have ongoing pelvic pain. Even if PID is treated quickly, the fallopian tubes can be damaged. This can lead to infertility. Or it can cause an ectopic pregnancy in the future. This is a pregnancy that happens in a fallopian tube. It can cause sudden pain, severe bleeding, and death.
You can lower your risk of PID by having fewer sex partners. Have your partner use a condom. You and your partner should get regular screening for STDs.
What to Do
Take all your medications exactly as prescribed. Do not stop taking the antibiotics if you feel better. Take all of the medication until it is gone. Your healthcare provider may ask you to come back for a follow up visit in 2-3 days after you start treatment to make sure it’s working. Do not have sex until your symptoms go away, or until your doctor says it’s okay. If you have an STD, make sure your partner is tested for STDs and treated as needed.
What We Have Learned
- PID is caused by a sexually transmitted virus. True False?
The answer is False. PID is caused by bacteria that travel up through the vagina into the uterus and fallopian tubes.
- While PID can be painful for some women, others may have no symptoms at all. True or False?
The answer is True. Some women have no symptoms. This means treatment can be delayed, causing more serious problems.
- PID can lead to infertility. True False?
The answer is True. Even if PID is treated quickly, the fallopian tubes can be damaged, which can lead to infertility.