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Pelvic Inflammatory Disease: A Cause of Painful Sex and Infertility

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Pelvic inflammatory disease is inflammation of the organs of the pelvis and it is caused by an infection that starts in the vagina and cervix. When the bacteria travels from your cervix into the uterus, you may start to feel unwell.

It can also infect your fallopian tubes and so may cause infertility due to tubal damage.

Pelvic inflammatory disease can be caused by sexually transmitted infections such as chlamydia and gonorrhea, but it can also be caused by other bacteria and may result after childbirth or after having an IUD fitted.

Symptoms of PID

Symptoms include:

• Pain in the lower abdomen
• Pain in the lower back
• Pain during sexual intercourse
• Pain in the legs
• Unusual vaginal discharge with a foul odor
• Bleeding in between periods or having heavy periods
• Pain when urinating
• A fever
• Nausea and vomiting

Some women have no symptoms at all. If you do have any symptoms, it is important to see a doctor.

Although the symptoms can mean other infections, if you have PID (particularly the sexually transmitted variety) it can prevent you having children and if you do manage to get pregnant, the baby can become infected and either die in utero or be born with physical and mental disabilities.

It can also be born with pneumonia or bacterial conjunctivitis, which can cause lung damage and permanent blindness.

Ectopic pregnancies are also more common in women with PID (pregnancies occurring outside the womb). These are potentially life-threatening and have to be stopped to save the life of the mother.

Women with untreated PID can go on to develop chronic (long-term) pelvic pain that can affect their enjoyment of sex and overall quality of life, so prompt diagnosis of any troubling symptoms is important for the health of women and their babies.


You will be examined and have swabs taken from your vagina to see if there is any bacteria. You may also have an ultrasound scan to look at the condition of your fallopian tubes.

The doctor might perform a laparoscopy to see inside your uterus (this is where a tiny telescope is inserted through the abdominal wall), but this is not routinely done and would only be done if the doctor is unsure of the diagnosis.

Since the symptoms of pelvic inflammatory disease are similar to ectopic pregnancy, you will also be given a pregnancy test to rule out this possibility.


You will be given antibiotics of more than one variety. If you have a fever or abscess you may be admitted to hospital for treatment.

Your partner should also be treated. This is because if he is infected and not treated, he may pass the infection back to you after you have completed treatment.


Pelvic Inflammatory Disease, Patient UK. Web. 23 February 2012. http://www.patient.co.uk/health/Pelvic-Inflammatory-Disease.htm

Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), Bupa. Web. 23 February 2012. http://www.bupa.co.uk/individuals/health-information/directory/p/pelvic-inflammatory-disease#textBlock275684

STDs in Women and Infants, CDC. Web. 23 February 2012. http://www.cdc.gov/std/stats10/womenandinf.htm#pid

Joanna is a freelance health writer for The Mother magazine and Suite 101 with a column on infertility, http://infertility.suite101.com/. She is author of the book, 'Breast Milk: A Natural Immunisation,' and co-author of an educational resource on disabled parenting.

Reviewed February 23, 2012
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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