Pelvic Inflammatory Disease

Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) is a bacterial infection affecting females that causes inflammation of the upper part of the reproductive organs - this includes the womb, fallopian tubes and ovaries. It is a common condition and mostly affects women aged 15 to 24.

Around 25% of cases in the UK are caused by sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Without treatment, Pelvic Inflammatory Disease can lead to fertility problems.

Many types of bacteria can cause PID, however in most cases it is the result of Chlamydia or Gonorrhoea infection.

In some cases it is not known what the cause of the infection that lead to PID was. It is thought that such cases may be due to normal bacteria found in the vagina which have gotten past the cervix and into the reproductive organs.

These bacteria are usually harmless when in the vagina but can cause infection in other areas of the body.

There are some other factors that increase your risk of getting PID, these are

  • previously having an STI or Pelvic Inflammatory Disease
  • unprotected sex with multiple partners
  • recently had an abortion
  • recently had a miscarriage
  • an Intrauterine Device (IUD) or coil - the risk is only for 4 to 6 weeks after it has been fitted

PID does not always cause any clear symptoms and can sometimes just cause mild discomfort, however most women will have symptoms that include 1 or more of the following:

  • pain when peeing 
  • pain around lower tummy area, pelvis or rectum
  • heavy periods
  • painful periods
  • discomfort and/or pain during sex felt in the pelvis
  • unusual vaginal discharge (especially green or yellow)
  • a high temperature (over 38°C) and feeling or being sick

These symptoms are not always because of Pelvic Inflammatory Disease, but if you do have them, you should make an appointment to see your doctor.

As with all sexually transmitted infections the earlier you catch them and start treatment the lower your risk of developing health complications.

There is no single test for Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID), your doctor or a sexual health professional will ask you about your symptoms and your medical and sexual health history.

You may be examined for signs of infection, and a sample from your vagina or cervix may be taken using a cotton bud in order to test for bacteria and any sexually transmitted infections - this will not be painful.

Due to PID being hard to diagnose by symptoms alone, your doctor may need to do other tests such as.

  • a blood test
  • a urine test
  • a pregnancy test - symptoms of PID are close to those of an ectopic pregnancy

If caught at an early stage, PID can be treated with a short course of antibiotics, usually 14 days. It is important to complete the full course of treatment and to not have sex during this period to help the infection clear.

If you need pain relief during this period ask your doctor which painkillers are suitable for you.

You can lower your risk of getting PID by always using condoms with new sexual partners. Chlamydia is very common in young males and often shows no symptoms, so you and any new partner should both get tested at a sexual health clinic before having unprotected sex.

You should also get yourself regularly tested for STIs.

Myth: Getting an STI test is painful

For both men and women an STI test can be as simple and easy as providing a urine sample. Some tests involve having blood taken or visually examining the genitals.

Had unprotected sex?

If you have had unprotected sex this puts you at risk of catching a sexually transmitted infection.

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