Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)

Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) occurs when a woman’s uterus and/or fallopian tubes become infected. Sexually transmissible infections such as gonorrhoea or chlamydia are common causes of PID.

Other bacteria that normally live in the vagina can also cause it, especially after a termination of pregnancy, or having intra uterine device (IUD/coil) fitted. 

Symptoms

A woman may have all of the following symptoms or only some of them. They may be quite severe or very mild.

Symptoms include all or any of the following:

  • lower abdominal or pelvic pain
  • deep pain during sexual intercourse
  • fever and feeling unwell
  • an unusual vaginal discharge
  • irregular menstrual bleeding.

Sometimes PID can occur with no symptoms at all or symptoms that are so mild the woman may not think much of them (‘silent PID’).

Other problems it can cause

If the fallopian tubes are infected they can become scarred and deformed. This can lead to infertility or an ectopic pregnancy (a pregnancy occurring in the fallopian tube). This can also occur with silent PID.

PID can also cause long term lower abdominal or pelvic pain.

Tests

There is no test that can say for sure whether a women has PID or not. All women who could have PID should be offered an internal examination and be tested for chlamydia and gonorrhoea from either the cervix or vagina. If the woman does not want to be examined they can collect their own vaginal swabs. Blood tests for syphilis and HIV should be offered.

Treatment

The treatment is a combination of antibiotics, which will need to be taken for two weeks. If someone with PID is very sick, she might need to go into hospital for treatment. Because PID is difficult to diagnose it is important to take the treatment for PID for all pelvic pain in a young woman where no other cause is found.

Do sexual partners need to be treated

Yes. All women should be advised not to have sex until their partner is treated. This is especially important if the woman is later found to have chlamydia or gonorrhoea.

Preventing PID and infertility

Most PID is sexually transmitted - using a condom will prevent almost all cases. 

Even if you have a regular partner, all women and men under 25 should have regular yearly chlamydia and gonorrhoea tests to ensure you get treated before you get PID. This is especially important if you’ve had chlamydia before.

Contact

For more information contact Centre for Disease Control's Clinic 34.

Last updated: 27 June 2017