Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)

What is it?

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.

Many different types of bacteria can cause pelvic inflammatory disease, including chlamydia or gonorrhoea infection, but sometimes the cause of the infection that leads to PID is unknown.

If diagnosed at an early stage, PID can be treated quickly and efficiently with antibiotics. However, if left untreated, it can lead to more serious long-term complications including infertility and chronic pain.

How do I catch it?

Pelvic inflammatory disease most commonly develops in sexually active women.

The introduction of bacteria into the womb and upper female genital tract (fallopian tubes and ovaries), and the development of PID can happen following unprotected sex, or during childbirth, an abortion or a miscarriage.

Symptoms

The symptoms of pelvic inflammatory disease are fairly general, which means the condition can be difficult to diagnose. The warning signs include:

  • pain around the lower abdomen
  • discomfort or pain felt deep inside during sexual intercourse
  • bleeding between periods and after sex
  • unusual vaginal discharge, especially if it is yellow or green
  • fever and vomiting

You may have PID without being aware of it as you may only experience mild symptoms or discomfort.

Testing

There is no single test for diagnosing pelvic inflammatory disease. PID is diagnosed based on your symptoms, a clinical examination and tests for sexually transmitted infections.

Treatment

A combination of at least two antibiotics is usually prescribed to treat pelvic inflammatory disease. (The course lasts for 14 days.) This is because PID often involves several different types of bacteria.

It is really important that your partner also gets treated to prevent re-infection. You should not have sex with your partner until you've both been treated.

All Umbrella clinics provide treatment for sexually transmitted infections. To find clinics, and to see which services they offer, please see the service locator.

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Worried about pelvic inflammatory disease?

How to avoid STIs

See the FPA website for a range of downloadable leaflets on contraception and sexually transmitted infections.

View FPA leaflets

The British Association for Sexual Health and HIV (BASHH) website also features a range of downloadable leaflets on STIs.

View BASHH leaflets