Pelvic Inflammatory Disease

ExitCare ImagePelvic inflammatory disease (PID) refers to an infection in some or all of the female organs. The infection can be in the uterus, ovaries, fallopian tubes, or the surrounding tissues in the pelvis. PID can cause abdominal or pelvic pain that comes on suddenly (acute pelvic pain). PID is a serious infection because it can lead to lasting (chronic) pelvic pain or the inability to have children (infertile).

CAUSES

The infection is often caused by the normal bacteria found in the vaginal tissues. PID may also be caused by an infection that is spread during sexual contact. PID can also occur following:

  • The birth of a baby.  

  • A miscarriage.  

  • An abortion.  

  • Major pelvic surgery.  

  • The use of an intrauterine device (IUD).  

  • A sexual assault.  

RISK FACTORS

Certain factors can put a person at higher risk for PID, such as:

  • Being younger than 25 years.

  • Being sexually active at a young age.

  • Using nonbarrier contraception.

  • Having multiple sexual partners.

  • Having sex with someone who has symptoms of a genital infection.

  • Using oral contraception.

Other times, certain behaviors can increase the possibility of getting PID, such as:

  • Having sex during your period.

  • Using a vaginal douche.

  • Having an intrauterine device (IUD) in place.

SYMPTOMS

  • Abdominal or pelvic pain.  

  • Fever.  

  • Chills.  

  • Abnormal vaginal discharge.

  • Abnormal uterine bleeding.  

  • Unusual pain shortly after finishing your period.

DIAGNOSIS

Your caregiver will choose some of the following methods to make a diagnosis, such as:

  • Performing a physical exam and history. A pelvic exam typically reveals a very tender uterus and surrounding pelvis.  

  • Ordering laboratory tests including a pregnancy test, blood tests, and urine test. 

  • Ordering cultures of the vagina and cervix to check for a sexually transmitted infection (STI).

  • Performing an ultrasound.  

  • Performing a laparoscopic procedure to look inside the pelvis.  

TREATMENT

  • Antibiotic medicines may be prescribed and taken by mouth.  

  • Sexual partners may be treated when the infection is caused by a sexually transmitted disease (STD).  

  • Hospitalization may be needed to give antibiotics intravenously.

  • Surgery may be needed, but this is rare.

It may take weeks until you are completely well. If you are diagnosed with PID, you should also be checked for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).  

HOME CARE INSTRUCTIONS

  • If given, take your antibiotics as directed. Finish the medicine even if you start to feel better.  

  • Only take over-the-counter or prescription medicines for pain, discomfort, or fever as directed by your caregiver.  

  • Do not have sexual intercourse until treatment is completed or as directed by your caregiver. If PID is confirmed, your recent sexual partner(s) will need treatment.  

  • Keep your follow-up appointments.

SEEK MEDICAL CARE IF:

  • You have increased or abnormal vaginal discharge.  

  • You need prescription medicine for your pain.  

  • You vomit.  

  • You cannot take your medicines.  

  • Your partner has an STD.  

SEEK IMMEDIATE MEDICAL CARE IF:

  • You have a fever.  

  • You have increased abdominal or pelvic pain.  

  • You have chills.  

  • You have pain when you urinate.  

  • You are not better after 72 hours following treatment.  

MAKE SURE YOU:

  • Understand these instructions.

  • Will watch your condition.

  • Will get help right away if you are not doing well or get worse.