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What is pelvic inflammatory disease?
Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is an infection of the female reproductive system, that is, a woman’s uterus (womb), fallopian tubes or ovaries. It is caused by bacteria spreading into the uterus from the vagina or cervix. The most common cause for it is from another sexually transmitted infection such as chlamydia or gonorrhoea. PID can also occur after pelvic operations, a pregnancy, or in the first few weeks after an IUD is put in.
PID is especially common if you are under 25 years old, have had a new sexual partner in the last three months, don’t always use condoms for sex, or if you’ve had an STI such as chlamydia or gonorrhoea.
What are the symptoms of pelvic inflammatory disease?
Most of the time, the signs that you have pelvic inflammatory disease are not very obvious, and sometimes there are no signs at all. This is why you must be extremely careful if you notice any of the following symptoms: cramping, pain or tenderness in the pelvic or lower abdominal (stomach) area, bleeding between periods, increased or different discharge from your vagina, pain when having sex, nausea and/or vomiting or a fever.
How serious is pelvic inflammatory disease?
Pelvic inflammatory disease can occasionally cause infertility (difficulty getting pregnant), ectopic pregnancy (a baby growing in a place outside the womb), or long-term pain. These things are more likely to happen if the treatment is late, so it’s important to get treated straight away.
How do I get tested for pelvic inflammatory disease?
If you have taken part in any sexual activity and notice any of the above signs of pelvic inflammatory disease, you should visit a doctor's office or clinic to get tested as soon as possible.
There is no one single test for PID. The doctor will rely on your symptoms and what is found on examination to decide if you have PID. Often the tests will not tell you the cause. Find a local clinic now.
What is the treatment for pelvic inflammatory disease?
Luckily, if you treat it early, PID can be cured with antibiotics in the form of an antibiotic injection and a two-week course of antibiotic tablets. Finish your antibiotics, even if you feel better and the tests are all fine.
If you have had the disease for a long time before you find it, you may have to be hospitalised in order to get the necessary treatment.
Other important information about pelvic inflammatory disease
Having sex without protection will increase your risk of getting an STI. If you have unprotected sex, get yourself tested—early diagnosis and treatment will prevent pelvic inflammatory disease.
If you are diagnosed with PID, you’ll need to inform anyone you have had sexual contact with in the last three months. Your health professional can help you deal with this situation, or read our section on How do I tell a partner?
You should avoid sex for two weeks from the start of your treatment. If this is not possible always use a condom, including for oral sex, until your treatment has been completed so you don't pass the infection on to someone else.
If you have a sexual partner you should both be treated and avoid sex for two weeks from the start of your treatment and until one week after your sexual partner has been treated. If this is not possible always use a condom, including for oral sex, until your treatment and your sexual partners treatment has been completed.
You should have another sexual health check after three months to check the status of your sexual health. The complications of PID get worse if you get it again, so preventing it is important.