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Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID): Causes, Symptoms, Risk Factors, and Complications

Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is an infection of the woman’s reproductive organs. It is often caused by a sexually transmitted infection (STI), and if left untreated, can cause problems getting pregnant, problems during pregnancy, and long-term pelvic pain.

The pelvis is in the lower abdomen and includes

  • the fallopian tubes,
  • the ovaries,
  • the cervix, and
  • The uterus.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Pelvic inflammatory disease condition is common and affects about 1 million women each year in the United States.

Several different types of bacteria can cause Pelvic inflammatory disease, including the same bacteria that cause the sexually transmitted infections (STIs) gonorrhea and chlamydia.

What commonly occurs is that bacteria first enter the vagina and cause an infection, then over time, this infection can move into the pelvic organs.

Causes Of Pelvic Inflammatory Disease

Many types of bacteria can cause Pelvic inflammatory disease, but gonorrhea or chlamydia infections are the most common. These bacteria are usually picked up during unprotected sex.

Less commonly, bacteria can enter your reproductive tract anytime the normal barrier created by the cervix is disturbed, like after childbirth, miscarriage or abortion.

Risk Factors For Pelvic Inflammatory Disease

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

  • being under the age of 25
  • having sex
  • having sex with multiple partners
  • having unprotected sex without a condom
  • using an intrauterine device (IUD) to prevent a pregnancy
  • douching, and
  • having a history of PID

Most experts now agree that it is not significant that having an intrauterine device (IUD) inserted increase the risk of pelvic inflammatory disease. Any potential risk is generally within the first three weeks after insertion of the device.

Symptoms Of Pelvic Inflammatory Disease

Some women with PID don’t have symptoms, but for those who do have, symptoms can include:

  • pain in the lower abdomen
  • pain in the upper abdomen
  • fever
  • painful sex
  • painful urination
  • irregular bleeding
  • increased or foul-smelling vaginal discharge
  • tiredness
  • mild or moderate pain, however, some women have severe pain like sharp pain in the abdomen
  • vomiting
  • fainting, and
  • a high fever (greater than 101°F)

If you have severe symptoms, call your doctor immediately or go to the emergency room, because, the infection can spread to your bloodstream or other parts of your body, which can be a life-threatening condition.

Complications Of Pelvic Inflammatory Disease

Untreated pelvic inflammatory disease might cause scar tissue, and you might also develop collections of infected fluid (abscesses) in your fallopian tubes. This could potentially damage your reproductive organs.

Complications might include:

Ectopic Pregnancy

Pelvic inflammatory disease is a major cause of tubal (ectopic) pregnancy, where the scar tissue from Pelvic inflammatory disease prevents the fertilized egg from making its way through the fallopian tube to implant in the uterus.

Ectopic pregnancy requires emergency medical attention and can cause massive, life-threatening bleeding.


Pelvic inflammatory disease might damage your reproductive organs and cause infertility (the inability to become pregnant). The more times you’ve had Pelvic inflammatory disease, the greater your risk of infertility.

Delaying treatment for Pelvic inflammatory disease also dramatically increases your risk of barrenness.

Chronic Pelvic Pain

PID can cause pelvic pain that might last for a long time, even years. Scarring in the fallopian tubes and other pelvic organs can cause serious pain during intercourse and ovulation.

Tubo-Ovarian Abscess

Pelvic inflammatory disease might cause an abscess (a collection of pus) to form in your uterine tube and ovaries, and if left untreated, could develop into a life-threatening infection.



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