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Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID)

What is pelvic inflammatory disease?

Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is a serious infection in which bacteria spread from the vagina or cervix into the fallopian tubes. In some cases, it can require hospitalization and surgery for treatment and can lead to chronic pain and infertility.

What causes pelvic inflammatory disease?

Pelvic inflammatory disease is often caused by sexually transmitted infections that begin in the cervix. Other bacteria that normally live in healthy genital tracts and elsewhere in the body have also been implicated. In women who have no symptoms from the cervical infection and are not treated early and adequately, the infection can spread into the uterus, fallopian tubes, ovaries, and pelvic cavity.

Could I prevent infections by douching?

No! Women who douche are 2-3 times more likely to get pelvic inflammatory disease. Douching is not necessary for hygiene, nor is it an effective treatment or prevention for any infection. Health experts advise against douching.

Can pelvic inflammatory disease be treated?

Yes, it can, although some infections are so severe that hospital admission is necessary.

What are the symptoms of pelvic inflammatory disease?

A woman may have no symptoms at all, or she may have some or all of the following:

  • steady, non cramping lower abdominal pain
  • unusually painful or heavy periods
  • vaginal bleeding between periods
  • pain during sex
  • abnormal vaginal discharge
  • low back pain
  • nausea and/or vomiting
  • fever

What should I do if I think I have pelvic inflammatory disease?

See a health care provider immediately. Pelvic inflammatory disease must be diagnosed and treated by a professional familiar with its signs and symptoms.

How is pelvic inflammatory disease diagnosed?

Your health care provider will give you a pelvic examination and perform tests for gonorrhea, chlamydia, and vaginal infections. Blood tests may be done.

How is pelvic inflammatory disease treated?

It cannot be treated with medicines available over the counter. Pelvic inflammatory disease is usually treated with an injection of antibiotics followed by fourteen days of oral antibiotics.

How can I avoid getting pelvic inflammatory disease?

The best way to avoid getting pelvic inflammatory disease is to make sure you never get gonorrhea, chlamydia, or any other sexually transmitted infection. Stay in a mutually monogamous relationship with someone who is free of infection. Otherwise, limit your sex partners; always use a condom; do not use drugs and do not use alcohol to excess, because they might tempt you into a risky sexual encounter; don't have sex with prostitutes or drug-users – they have very high rates of infection. If you suspect you have a sexually transmitted infection, stop having sex until you and your partner have both been checked and treated for infection.

Adapted from the University of South Carolina Student Health Services