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Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is an infection of the female reproductive organs. It’s a common illness — more than 1 million women in the U.S. are diagnosed with PID each year. PID happens when bacteria move from the vagina and cervix into the uterus, ovaries or fallopian tubes. If it’s not treated quickly, it can result in serious long-term problems. That's why it's important to know the signs of this often-silent condition, and what to do to treat it. 

Am I at Risk for PID?

PID mostly affects young women, especially those younger than 25, but anyone who’s sexually active is potentially open to infection. Women with these risk factors are more likely to have PID:

What Are the Symptoms?

It can be tricky to figure out if you have PID. Some women have only mild symptoms, while others have none at all. However, serious internal damage to reproductive organs may be occurring, making it critical to diagnose this condition quickly. Warning signs include:

  • Unusual vaginal discharge
  • Pain in the lower or upper right abdomen
  • Abnormal menstrual bleeding
  • Fever and chills
  • Painful urination
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Painful intercourse 

Does PID Cause Complications?

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PID can cause serious and long-lasting problems, including:

  • Infertility: Infection can cause scarring of the fallopian tubes and ovaries, which can prevent an egg from being fertilized. 
  • Ectopic (or tubal) pregnancy: Scarring from PID can prevent a fertilized egg from moving into the uterus as it should. Instead, it can begin to grow in the fallopian tube. The tube may rupture and cause life-threatening bleeding that must be treated with emergency surgery. 
  • Chronic pelvic pain: PID can lead to long-lasting abdominal pain.

How Can I Protect Myself?

Protecting yourself from PID means taking steps to avoid STIs like gonorrhea or chlamydia:

  • Use condoms every time you have sex, even if you use other birth control methods.
  • Have sex with a partner who does not have an STI and who only has sex with you. 
  • Limit your number of sex partners. If you or your partner has had previous partners, your risk of contracting an STI is increased.