What is Pelvic Inflammatory Disease?

Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) is a condition affecting women resulting from an infection in the uterus, ovaries and fallopian tubes. The condition is usually caused by a bacterial infection, but can also be caused by fungal, viral or parasitic infections.

Whilst PID is a common condition, many women are unaware that they have it as there are often no symptoms. The majority of cases of PID start with bacterial infections spreading from the vagina or cervix to the inner reproductive system where the infection can cause scarring and swelling.

STIs, such as Chlamydia and Gonorrhoea, are often responsible for these infections but Mycoplasma, Ureaplasma and other bacteria are often commonly found in cases of PID.

The most effective defence against PID is to protect yourself against STIs. If you suspect you may have an STI, comprehensive testing is essential for both yourself and any partners.

How does Pelvic Inflammatory Disease develop?

Contraceptives such as condoms offer some protection but are not 100% effective. PID is more frequently diagnosed in women who are sexually active and have multiple sexual partners. This behaviour will generally increase the risk of exposure to infection-causing bacteria. Regular STI testing especially after intercourse with new or casual partners when risk is increased is the only way to be confident any STIs are diagnosed and treated.

What are the symptoms of Pelvic Inflammatory Disease?

The symptoms of PID, when they do occur, can include lower abdominal pain, pain or discomfort during intercourse, unusual vaginal discharge (particularly yellow or green in colour), unusual vaginal odours, irregular menstrual bleeding and fever. If you experience any pelvic pain or other symptoms as described above, or if you have any concerns about PID then you should seek medical attention immediately.

Treatment with an appropriate antibiotic can help to prevent or minimise severe damage to your reproductive system. The more time that passes without treatment, the greater the likelihood that you will become infertile or increase your risk of ectopic pregnancies due to scarring within your fallopian tubes.

How is Pelvic Inflammatory Disease treated?

PID is usually treated with a 14-day course of one or more antibiotics. You should not have sexual intercourse during this period. When undergoing treatment for PID, you should see your doctor a few days after starting treatment to make sure the antibiotics are working properly.

Your partner should also be treated as well to make sure you are not re-infected by the bacteria after you have finished your treatment. Further infection is common, with one in five women having more than one episode in their lifetimes.