What is Pelvic Inflammatory Disease?
- infection in a woman's internal reproductive organs
- results most often from two common STIs: gonorrhea and chlamydia
- other vaginal infections are also suspected causes: bacterial vaginosis (BV) and trichomonas
- can be caused by certain procedures that open the cervix and allow possible bacteria to pass through (D&C, abortion, cesarean birth, miscarriage, I.U.D. insertion, etc.)
What are some of the signs of PID?
PID can happen suddenly with intense symptoms, or develop slowly with vague or hidden symptoms:
- pain in the lower abdomen/lower back
- bloating/pressure in the abdomen/lower back
- vaginal discharge with an unusual odour/colour
- flu-like symptoms (fever, chills, achy muscles)
- pain during or after intercourse
- irregular vaginal bleeding
- frequent and/or painful urination.
Symptoms of PID can be very mild. Some women have no symptoms at all, but that doesn't mean their infections aren't serious. If a woman thinks she might have PID, she should go to her doctor/clinic right away to be examined!
How do they examine me?
- a vaginal exam is done with a speculum, so the doctor can look inside and examine the cervix, similar to having a PAP test
- a bimanual exam (with one hand on the abdomen and the other inside the vagina) is done to feel for pain or any unusual lump
- a swab of the cervix is taken to look for bacteria
- sometimes an ultrasound is done
- laparoscopy is a surgical procedure that can help determine if a woman has PID (By means of a small incision in the abdomen, a tiny scope/camera can examine the reproductive organs; swabs can be taken at the same time)
Can it be treated?
Yes! But… the faster PID is treated the less chance of serious complications.
- special antibiotics must be taken
- some women require hospitalization for treatment
- partners must be treated for infection, even if they have no symptoms
- rest is an essential part of the treatment
- good nutrition is also important for healing
- NO SEX until all medication has been taken and you are examined again by your doctor to make sure the infection is gone.
What are the "complications"?
- Ectopic Pregnancy (tubal pregnancy): scar tissue remaining in a fallopian tube can partially block a fertilized egg, which continues to grow in the tube instead of the uterus (this can be life threatening and requires immediate attention). A tubal pregnancy usually causes sharp, persistent pain on one side
- Infertility can result from damage or scarring caused by the infection (scar tissue can block the fallopian tubes, preventing an egg from passing.)
- Pain - can continue after treatment in some cases
How can I reduce my chance of getting PID?
- reduce number of sexual partners
- use latex condoms to prevent STIs
- avoid using IUDs, especially if you have several sexual partners
- if you have an IUD, see your doctor regularly for STI check ups
- diaphragms or cervical caps, when used with a spermicide, also reduce STI risk
- if you are treated for an STI, make sure your partner is also properly treated before you have sex with him again
- prevent bowel bacteria from entering the vagina by wiping from front to back after a bowel movement
Almost 100,000 Canadian women get PID each year. Young women are especially at risk as one in eight sexually active 15 year old girls will get PID. Practicing Safer Sex lowers your chances of getting an STI and PID.