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Pelvic inflammatory disease

Overview of pelvic inflammatory disease (PID

Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is an infection of the ovaries, uterus, and other female reproductive organs. It can be mild, but it can also become severe. Without adequate treatment, PID can cause infertility and chronic pelvic pain.

At Dignity Health, our skilled, caring team of gynecologists can help with everything from PID diagnosis to symptom relief. Find a Doctor near you and schedule an appointment to get started on treating pelvic inflammatory disease.


The signs and symptoms of this pelvic infection vary from woman to woman. In mild cases, you may not even know you have it. There are also PID symptoms that are obvious, and that can significantly impact your quality of life, including:

  • Pain in your lower abdomen and pelvic area
  • Abnormal or foul-smelling vaginal discharge
  • Irregular menstrual periods
  • Vaginal bleeding between menstrual periods
  • Pain during sex
  • Painful urination
  • Fever and chills
  • Nausea and vomiting

Since it is possible to have pelvic inflammatory disease without any signs or symptoms, it is important to schedule regular pelvic exams and see your doctor if you experience anything unusual.


Various types of bacteria cause PID. However, the most common bacteria to cause it are the sexually transmitted infections (STIs) chlamydia and gonorrhea. When other bacteria cause the infection, they can be introduced into the female reproductive system any time the natural barrier provided by the cervix is breeched, such as during menstruation, childbirth, abortion, or miscarriage.

Risk factors

Since the cause of PID is a bacterial infection, most likely due to an STI, there are several risk factors that increase your odds of getting it. These include:

  • Having more than one sexual partner
  • Having sex with a person who has multiple sexual partners
  • Having unprotected sex
  • Having sex earlier than age 25
  • A period of three weeks after an intrauterine device is inserted
  • Regular douching
  • A history of PID or an STI


Since PID is a bacterial infection that has clear, controllable risk factors, there are many actions you can take to protect yourself. Prevention methods include:

  • Limiting sexual partners – The more sexual partners you have, the higher your risk of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and PID. Sexual abstinence or a monogamous relationship with an STI-free partner decreases your risk. If you do have a partner, you should be aware of their sexual history.
  • Using condoms during sex Birth control pills or injections can prevent pregnancy, but they do not prevent the spread of infection. Use a condom correctly during vaginal, anal, and oral sex to decrease your risk.
  • STI screening – If you are sexually active, get screened regularly for STIs, including gonorrhea and chlamydia. Screening can catch infections before they cause symptoms. Early treatment of STIs may prevent or limit PID. You should also request your sexual partner get screened.
  • Avoiding douching – The vagina is self-cleansing. Douching is never recommended and can cause infection.

The information contained in this article is meant for educational purposes only and should not replace advice from your healthcare provider.