Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)

Most cases of pelvic inflammatory disease are caused by an infection in the vagina or the neck of the womb (cervix) that has spread to the reproductive organs higher up. If diagnosed at an early stage, PID can be treated quickly and efficiently with antibiotics.

What is it?

An infection in the neck of the womb (cervix) or the vagina that has spread to the reproductive organs higher up is the most common cause of pelvic inflammatory disease (PID for short).

PID can be caused by many different types of bacteria, including gonorrhoea or chlamydia infection. However, sometimes the cause of the infection that leads to PID is unknown.

PID can be treated efficiently and quickly with antibiotics if it is treated at the early stage. If it is left untreated, it can lead to more serious long term complications such as abscesses, chronic pain, infertility and ectopic pregnancy (where the egg implants outside of the womb).

How do I catch it?

Sexually active women are the most at risk of developing PID.

PID develops when bacteria is introduced into the womb, fallopian tubes and ovaries. This can happen during childbirth, an abortion, a miscarriage, unprotected sex or even as a result of a medical procedure when a sample of tissue from the inside of the womb is taken for testing.

What symptoms could I have?

The symptoms of PID are fairly general, meaning that it can be difficult to diagnose. Warning signs that you need to look out for include:

  • Discomfort or pain felt deep inside during sexual intercourse.
  • Unusual vaginal discharge, especially if it’s yellow or green.
  • Pain in the rectum (back passage).
  • Fever and vomiting.
  • Pain around the lower abdomen.
  • Bleeding in between periods and after sex.

You might only experience mild symptoms or discomfort and this means that you could have PID without knowing it.

How do you test for it?

PID can’t be diagnosed using a single test. The clinic will diagnose PID based on your symptoms, a clinical examination and tests.

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How do you treat it?

PID is treated using a combination of at least two antibiotics because it often involves several different types of bacteria. The course will last for 14 days.

Make sure that your partner is also treated before you have sex again to prevent reinfection.