Pelvic Inflammatory Disease: Symptoms, Treatment and Risks

Sexual Health

What is Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID)?

Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is a common condition whereby a bacteria infects the reproductive organs in women. There can be different sources of the bacteria that causes PID. Some of the bacteria that are transmitted during sexual intercourse include gonorrhea and chlamydia. What does occur is that the bacteria infect the vagina then will move towards the pelvic organs. As part of the pelvic organs are the fallopian tubes, the ovaries, the cervix, and the uterus. Besides the possibility of impacting the reproductive organs, this infection can be deadly. Your chances of death can be high if the infection spreads to your blood.

How is it transmitted?

You are at a higher risk of PID if you have chlamydia or gonorrhoea. But you can also develop PID even if you can free of other STIs.

The bacteria that cause PID can spread through sexual contact. If you are sexually active, your partner should also get treated for PID. Men may be silent carriers of bacteria that cause pelvic inflammatory disease. Your infection can recur if your partner doesn’t receive treatment. You may be asked to abstain from sexual intercourse until the infection has been resolved.

Who is at risk?

Your risk of PID increases if you have gonorrhea or chlamydia. However, you can develop PID without ever having an STI. Other factors that can cause pelvic inflammatory disease include:

  • Having unprotected sex with more than one person, and being under the age of 25. Females between 15 -24 are a highest risk
  • Using an intrauterine device (IUD) to prevent a pregnancy. The risk if higher for the first few weeks after an insertion of an IUD. A STI test before an IUD is inserted can lower your risk of developing PID
  • Douching, since it can push the bacteria into the reproductive organs, thereby causing PID. Also douching can hide the signs of PID
  • A history of pelvic inflammatory disease.


Although some females might not experience any symptoms, others do. These include:

  • Fever
  • Painful intercourse
  • Mild to moderate pain in the lower abdomen, or upper abdomen, or then urinating
  • Fatigue
  • A rotten smelling discharge
  • Irregular bleeding
  • If the pain is severe, there can be vomiting, fainting and a high fever.


Your doctor will firstly check if you have the main symptoms of PID. These will be:

  • A strange discharge from your cervix or vagina
  • The presence of a collection of pus at your fallopian tubes or ovaries
  • If there is pain or tenderness in your reproductive organs.

If you present with the symptoms of PID you will need to be tested to confirm the diagnosis. There are different laboratory tests available, namely:

  • A cervical culture to check the cervix for infections
  • A pelvic exam to check the pelvic organs
  • And a urine test to check for signs of blood in the urine, cancer and other diseases.

If PID is detected, your physician will do more tests to determine if there were any damage caused to the pelvic area.

Damage could be scarring of the fallopian tubes or lasting damage to the reproductive organs. These test can include:

  • Taking samples of the lining of the uterus
  • Conducting a pelvic ultrasound of the internal organs
  • Or the doctor can make an incision in the abdomen and then insert a flexible instrument in to take images of the pelvic organs.


As the variety of bacteria might be unknown, your doctor will prescribe you different types of antibiotics. Mostly 2 different antibiotics will be prescribed by your doctor. The full dose needs to be completed even if you feel better.

If you are pregnant or have an abscess you might have to be hospitalised. If there is an abscess surgery will be needed. This is to prevent a rupture, but also if the infection does not respond to the treatment.


If PID worsen it can cause different long term problems. These can include:

  • Problems getting pregnant (infertility)
  • Problems during pregnancy (a pregnancy that happens outside the womb)
  • Long term pelvic pain, due to the scarring of the fallopian tubes and other pelvic organs
  • In severe cases, if the infection spreads to the blood you can die.


You can lower your risk to develop PID by:

  • Avoiding douching
  • Practicing safer sex
  • Wiping from front to back after using the bathroom to stop bacteria from entering your vagina.