What is pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)?
PID occurs when bacteria travels from the vagina to the uterus, ovaries and fallopian tubes, causing pain and inflammation. This infection spreads throughout a woman’s reproductive organs and causes permanent damage, resulting in fertility challenges. Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) can cause PID, creating a challenge for pregnancy.
Causes of PID
Many infections can cause PID, but gonorrhea or chlamydia are common culprits. In other cases, bacteria can enter the reproductive tract from childbirth, miscarriage, or abortion.
Many of the risk factors associated with PID are connected to unprotected sex. Women may be at a higher risk for developing PID if they:
- Have multiple sexual partners
- Are in a relationship with a person who has more than one sexual partner
- Have unprotected sex
- Are younger than 25 years of age
- Have a history of pelvic inflammatory disease or STDs
- Douche regularly, which upsets the balance of healthy bacteria in the vagina
Symptoms of PID
In many cases, PID does not present itself with noticeable signs or symptoms. Women may not even realize they have this condition until they develop chronic pelvic pain or have trouble conceiving.
However, you may have PID if you experience:
- Pain in your lower abdomen and pelvis
- Difficulty urinating or pain while urinating
- Heavy vaginal discharge
- Vaginal discharge with an unpleasant odor
- Abnormal bleeding during or after intercourse, or between menstrual cycles
If left undiagnosed and untreated, pelvic inflammatory disease can result in scar tissue and damage to your reproductive organs.
Other complications of undiagnosed PID may include:
- Ectopic pregnancy
- Chronic pelvic pain
- Tubo-ovarian abscess
Your doctor can diagnose pelvic inflammatory disease after reviewing your symptoms by:
- Performing a pelvic exam
- Analyzing vaginal discharge and cervical cultures
- Assessing urine tests
During a pelvic exam, your doctor will first examine your pelvic region for signs of PID. They may then use a cotton swab to take samples from your vagina and cervix.
Physicians then analyze these samples at a lab to determine signs of an infection. Your doctor can also recommend further forms of testing to diagnose signs of PID. The following include:
Blood and urine tests
These tests will measure your white blood cell count, which can reveal an infection and inflammation.
This procedure utilizes a wand-like device to take images of your reproductive organs.
This procedure moves a thread and tiny camera through an incision in your abdomen to view your pelvic organs.
Treatment for PID
Most women with PID need outpatient treatment, although women who are seriously ill, pregnant or have not responded to oral medications may require further intensive care. Treatment for PID won’t reverse any damages developed in your reproductive system, so it’s urgent that you reach out to a fertility clinic or doctor as soon as possible if you suspect signs of PID.
However, PID can be cured. Treatments for pelvic inflammatory disease include:
- Treatment for your partner
- Temporarily abstaining from sex
Note: Symptoms of PID can disappear during a course of antibiotics. However, doctors will advise you to continue with this course of antibiotics until completion, as you still have a high chance of retracting PID.