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Pelvic Inflammatory Disease

This post was originally published in Ferne Health

Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is an infection of the female reproductive organs, namely the upper genital tract. It is often caused by sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), but sometimes it can be due to other non-sexually transmitted infections as well as instrumentation.


PID commonly affects the fallopian tubes, which are the tubes connecting the ovaries to the womb. This can result in fertility problems.


Who is at risk?

  • Women who have untreated STDs

  • Sexually active women with more than one sexual partner

  • Women whose sexual partner has had multiple sexual partners in the past

  • Women who douche (vaginal rinsing)


There is also a small risk of getting PID if you have an intrauterine device (IUD) in your womb; however, the risks are usually highest in the first few weeks of insertion.


What are the symptoms of PID?

PID can present very differently for individuals. However, some symptoms that women with PID may present with include:


  • Fever, nausea, vomiting, chills, rigours

  • Pain in the pelvic region

  • Abnormal vaginal discharge (e.g., foul-smelling, bloody, greenish)

  • Urinary symptoms (e.g., urinary urgency, pain with urination)

  • Vulva itch


PID may sometimes be misdiagnosed as urinary tract infection; very rarely it can initially present like appendicitis, ovarian torsion, or ectopic pregnancy.


What happens if I have PID?

PID, when presented early, can usually be treated with antibiotics. However, PID may sometimes cause permanent scarring of the tissue. If you have had a PID before, you are more likely to have another one again.

Some of the complications of PID include infertility, tubal blockage, ectopic pregnancy (pregnancy outside the womb) and long-term pelvic pain. Your reproductive organs may also stick together, which is known as adhesions. In severe cases other organs such as the liver or intestines might also be implicated.


What are the treatment options for PID?

Mild cases of PID are usually treated with antibiotics. If the PID causes abscess, or pus that is built up inside the body, an operation might be required to drain the pus.


How do I reduce the risks of PID?

The best way to reduce the risks is to practise safe sex, that is, by using barrier contraception such as condoms. If you are sexually active, you should get tested for STDs regularly. If you are on antibiotics for an STD, do complete the entire course of antibiotics as not completing it might lead to antibiotic resistance.

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