Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID)

Reviewed/Revised Apr 2023
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What is pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)?

PID is an infection in your uterus (womb), in the tubes that connect your ovaries with your uterus (fallopian tubes), or in both. PID can also spread to your ovaries (the sex organs that hold your eggs) and your bloodstream.

  • An infection you get during sex called an STI (sexually transmitted infection) causes PID

  • Bacteria (germs) from your vagina (birth canal) get into your uterus

  • You'll have lower belly pain and usually vaginal discharge (thick fluid from your vagina)

  • PID can make it difficult to get pregnant (infertility)

  • PID usually occurs in sexually active women and can be very serious

  • Doctors treat PID with antibiotics

What causes PID?

PID is caused by bacteria from your vagina. You get these bacteria by having sex with a partner who has an STI. Usually, the STI is gonorrhea or chlamydia. Sometimes your partner doesn't have any symptoms but can still give you an STI.

What are the symptoms of PID?

Early symptoms of PID

Later symptoms of PID

  • Very bad lower belly pain

  • A fever (usually below 102° F [38.9° C] but can go higher)

  • Feeling sick to your stomach or throwing up

  • Vaginal discharge that’s yellow-green or like pus

  • Pain during sex or when urinating (peeing)

Symptoms that happen toward the end of your monthly period or during the few days after your period ends are suggestive of PID. PID can be severe yet cause mild or no symptoms.

Can PID cause other problems?

Yes. The infection in PID can spread around the inside of your belly and around your liver. Sometimes a pocket of pus (abscess) forms in your fallopian tubes.

PID can cause scar tissue to form in your fallopian tubes. This scar tissue can prevent you from getting pregnant. If scar tissue forms inside your belly (adhesions), your intestines may get caught in the scar tissue and twisted shut (intestinal obstruction).

Also, if you have had PID and do get pregnant, you're much more likely to have an ectopic pregnancy. In an ectopic pregnancy, your baby grows outside of your uterus. If your baby grows in one of your fallopian tubes instead of your uterus, after a few weeks, the growing baby makes the tube split open. The baby will die, and the tube may bleed so much that you could die.

How can my doctor tell if I have PID?

The doctor will ask you questions and will usually do a pelvic exam. During a pelvic exam, your doctor looks inside your vagina, holding it open with a small instrument called a speculum. Your doctor may:

  • Take a sample of fluid from your cervix using a cotton swab to test it for gonorrhea and chlamydia

  • Order a blood test

If the doctor thinks you might have an abscess or pregnancy in your fallopian tube, you'll usually have an ultrasound test.

How will my doctor treat PID?

Because STIs (gonorrhea and chlamydia) are the most likely cause of PID, your doctor will prescribe antibiotics to treat those STIs. You'll usually get a single shot and then take antibiotics by mouth at home for several weeks. If you don't start getting better within 48 hours, you may need to go to the hospital. You may be treated in the hospital right away if:

  • You have severe symptoms or a high fever

  • You have an abscess in your fallopian tubes

  • You're throwing up and can't take medicine by mouth

If you're taking medicine to treat PID, don't have sex until these 2 things happen:

  • You're done taking your medicine

  • Your doctor says the infection is gone

While you're taking your medicine, ask people you've had sex with recently to get tested for gonorrhea and chlamydia.

How can I prevent PID?

You can't always prevent PID, but to lower your risk:

  • Have sex with only one partner

  • Use both condoms and spermicides during sex

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