pelvic inflammatory
disease (pid)

PID stands for pelvic inflammatory disease, a serious infection of a woman's reproductive organs. PID is a leading cause of infertility (inability to have children) in the United States. It can lead to life-threatening complications.

What Causes PID?
The most common causes of PID are two sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), chlamydia and gonorrhea. Other bacteria or germs may also be a cause. PID occurs when an infection in the genital tract isn't treated right away. The infection spreads from the cervix up into the uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries. PID can develop anywhere from several days to several months after infection with an STD.

Why Is PID Dangerous?
PID can cause scarring in the fallopian tubes, which can lead to tubal pregnancy (a life-threatening pregnancy in which there is no chance of producing a baby). A woman who has had PID may have problems getting pregnant or be unable to have children at all. PID can also cause long-lasting pain.

What Are the Symptoms of PID?
The most common symptom of PID is dull pain or tenderness in the lower abdomen. Other possible symptoms include:
  • Bleeding between menstrual periods
  • Increased or changed vaginal discharge
  • Pain during sex
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Fever and chills

Many women have no symptoms or symptoms too mild to notice. However, PID can cause permanent damage even when it is completely painless.


How Can PID Be Prevented?
The best way to prevent PID is to prevent sexually transmitted diseases (see "How Can I Prevent STDs?"). If you have sex, get tested for chlamydia and gonorrhea at least once a year. If you think you may have an STD, get tested and treated right away, before the infection spreads.

What Are the Symptoms of Chlamydia and Gonorrhea?
Unfortunately, most women with chlamydia or gonorrhea have no symptoms. The only way to know if you have one of these infections is to be tested.

If a woman does have symptoms, they may include:

  • Unusual vaginal discharge
  • Burning when urinating
  • Lower abdominal pain during sex
  • Bleeding between menstrual periods

Go to a clinic or doctor at once if you notice any of these symptoms. Both chlamydia and gonorrhea can be cured quickly and easily with antibiotic medicines.


Can PID Be Cured?
If detected early, PID can be cured with antibiotic medicines. If left untreated, some cases of PID may require a stay in the hospital.

Women can get PID again if they are re-exposed to STDs like chlamydia or gonorrhea.


What Should I Do If I Think I Have PID?
If you suspect PID, go to a doctor or clinic at once. Tell your health care provider what you think you have and why. Even if your symptoms are not severe, you should get help as soon as possible, before permanent damage is done.

If PID is diagnosed, the woman and all sex partners must be treated. Otherwise, they will continue to pass the infection back and forth. Avoid sex, or use condoms for sex, until all sex partners are completely cured.

After treatment, go back to your doctor for a follow-up exam to be sure you are cured.


Can Men Help Prevent PID?
Yes. Men are more likely than women to have symptoms from chlamydia or gonorrhea, the infections that often cause PID. These symptoms include:
  • Pus-like discharge from the penis
  • Pain or burning with urination

A man can help protect his female partner(s) by telling her at once if he is diagnosed with an infection. Early treatment can spare her lasting damage to her reproductive system.

Men should be treated with antibiotics to cure chlamydia or gonorrhea. Men should take all the medicine prescribed, even if symptoms go away.

Avoid sex, or use condoms for sex until sex partners are completely cured. All partners must be treated to stop the cycle of infection.


How Can I Prevent STDs?
The best way to prevent PID is to prevent STDs:
Practice "Outercourse":
The only sure way to prevent STDs is to avoid contact between the penis, vagina, mouth, or anus. You can touch, kiss, cuddle, massage, or tell each other your fantasies. In general, using your hands to give pleasure is safe.
Use a Condom:
Use a condom from start to finish every time you have sex. Female condoms and male condoms are now available. For extra protection, use a spermicidal jelly or foam during vaginal sex. Use it with condoms, not in place of them.
Limit Number of Partners:
The more people you have sex with, the greater your risk of getting an STD. If your partner has sex with others, you are also at risk.
Get Tested:
If you think you have an STD, go to your doctor or clinic right away. Ask your partner(s) to get tested too, so you won't pass a disease back and forth. If you have sex, get a checkup at least once a year.
Get Treated:
Follow your health care provider's instructions carefully. Take all the medicine prescribed for you. Don't stop when symptoms go away. Never share prescription medicine with anyone. Stop having sex, or use condoms for sex, until you and your partner(s) are completely cured.