Pelvic Inflammatory Disease: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment, Test and Exams

pelvic inflammatory disease definition

PID is a bacterial inflammation which can affect the womb, fallopian tubes, or ovaries.

The pelvic inflammatory disease is the result of an infection that impacts the internal reproductive organs of a woman. It affects about 5% of women in the United States.


Possible symptoms include pain in the lower abdomen, a deep-seated pain during sexual intercourse, pain on urination, heavy or painful periods, bleeding between periods (breakthrough bleeding), and a yellow or green vaginal discharge.

Occasionally women may also have a high temperature, severe pain, and nausea. Not every woman with the disease has every symptom, and some display no signs at all.

Untreated, the pelvic inflammatory disease may lead to scarring of the fallopian tubes, which can give a woman an increased risk of ectopic pregnancy (when a fertilized egg implants itself in a fallopian tube) or make her infertile.

If you have any of the symptoms of the disease, you should see a physician without delay.

However, entirely different conditions like appendicitis, endometriosis, or ectopic pregnancy can also cause such pain in the lower abdomen.

Since pelvic inflammatory disease may not give any symptoms, young women can reduce their risk of infertility by having a gynecological examination at regular intervals to check for the condition.


Various types of bacteria can cause PID. Sometimes an ordinarily occurring infection in the vagina can cause the condition, but in other cases, something far more severe such sexually-transmitted diseases like chlamydia and gonorrhea can cause PID.

Sexual intercourse soon after giving birth, miscarriage, or an abortion increases the risk of the disease and should be avoided. Use of a condom by new sexual partners reduces the risk of getting the disease.

Sometimes an intrauterine device (IUD) is the cause of the infection. Vaginal douching increases the risk of the disease, so is not recommended by most physicians.

Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is an infection caused by bacteria. When bacteria in the vagina or cervix travel to the uterus, fallopian tubes or ovaries, they can produce or induce a disease.

Most of the time, the bacteria of chlamydia and gonorrhea cause PID. These are sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

Having unprotected sex with someone who has a sexually transmitted infection can cause PID.

Bacteria can also enter the body during a medical procedure such as:

  • Birth.
  • Endometrial biopsy (remove a small piece of the lining of the uterus to look for cancer).
  • Insertion of an intrauterine device (IUD).
  • Spontaneous abortion.
  • Abortion.

In the United States, about 1 million women have PIDs annually. About 1 in 8 sexually active female adolescents will present PID before age 20.

You are more likely to develop PID if:

  • You have a sexual partner with gonorrhea or chlamydia.
  • Your sexual partner had sex with many different people.
  • You have had an STI.
  • You have recently had an IUD.
  • You have had sexual activity before the age of 20.


Antibiotics are used to treat the disease. Usually, people take such pills, but in severe cases, medical experts use intravenous antibiotics.

Doctors typically prescribe antibiotics for 14 days; it is essential to finish the course. Otherwise, some bacteria may survive.

Ceftriaxone, doxycycline, and metronidazole are among the antibiotics commonly prescribed. If your healthcare provider prescribed doxycycline, you should stay out of the sun as much as possible. Otherwise, you may get a nasty rash.

It is essential that women diagnosed with pelvic inflammatory disease contact their sexual partners, since they may also be carrying bacteria, even if they have no symptoms.

Also, Women should avoid sex until getting a diagnosis.

The disease can occur with faithful long-standing partners since bacteria that aren’t sexually transmitted can also cause this condition. It is not, on its own, a sign of infidelity.

If an intrauterine device (IUD) is thought to be a cause of the infection, it may have to get removed.

In time, people would likely need alternative contraceptive methods.

Occasionally the bacteria form abscesses, which may have to be removed surgically since antibiotics not always destroy the bacteria.

The pelvic inflammatory disease may occur during pregnancy. Women would need rapid and careful treatment to avoid damage to the unborn child; antibiotics can often suppress the illness without such damage occurring.

Tests and exams

Your health care provider can do a pelvic exam to look for:

  • Bleeding from the cervix, which is the opening to the uterus.
  • Flow coming out of the cervix.
  • Pain when touching the cervix.
  • Sensitivity in the womb, fallopian tubes or ovaries.

You may be given laboratory tests to look for signs of infection:

  • C-reactive protein (CRP).
  • Erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR, for its acronym in English).
  • White blood cell count.
  • Exudate from the vagina or cervix. Experts will test this sample for gonorrhea, chlamydia, or other causes of PID.
  • Ultrasound or computed tomography of the pelvis to see what else may be causing the symptoms. Appendicitis or infection cavities around the tubes and ovaries can cause similar symptoms.
  • Pregnancy test.

Often, your provider will start giving you antibiotics while you wait for the test results.

If you have mild PID

Your provider will give you an injection containing an antibiotic. They will send her home with antibiotic pills for up to two weeks.

When your case of PID turns out to be more severe:

  • You may require hospitalization.
  • Doctors may give you intravenous antibiotics and oral antibiotics after a while.

Many different antibiotics can treat PID. Some are safe for pregnant women. The type you take depends on the cause of the infection. You may receive a different treatment if you have gonorrhea or chlamydia.

If a sexually transmitted infection such as gonorrhea or chlamydia caused your PID, your sex partner should also get treatment for those conditions.

If you have more than one sexual partner, all should receive treatment.

If your partner does not receive treatment, you can become infected again, or you can infect others in the future.

Both you and your partner should finish taking all the prescribed antibiotics. Use condoms until both have finished taking the medicines.