Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) occurs when bacteria move from the vagina or cervix into the uterus, fallopian tubes, ovaries, or pelvis.
Most cases of PID are due to the bacteria that cause chlamydia and gonorrhea. These are sexually transmitted infections (STIs). The most common way a woman develops PID is by having unprotected sex with someone who has a sexually transmitted infection.
However, bacteria may also enter the body during some surgical or office procedures, such as:
Your doctor will often start you on antibiotics while waiting for your test results.
If you are diagnosed with milder PID, you will usually be given an antibiotic injection or shot, and then sent home with antibiotic pills to take for up to 2 weeks. You will need to closely follow up with your health care provider.
More severe cases of PID may require you to stay in the hospital. Antibiotics are first given by IV, and then later by mouth. Which antibiotic is used depends on the type of infection.
A number of different antibiotics may be used for treating this type of infection. Some are safe in pregnant women. See gonorrhea or chlamydia for specific treatment recommendations.
Sexual partners must be treated to prevent passing the infection back and forth. You and your partner must finish all of the antibiotics. Use condoms until you both have finished taking your antibiotics.
Complicated cases that do not improve with antibiotics may need surgery.
PID infections can cause scarring of the pelvic organs, possibly leading to:
You think you have been exposed to a sexually transmitted infection (STI)
Treatment for a current STI does not seem to be working
Preventive measures include:
Get prompt treatment for STIs.
Practice safer sex behaviors. The only absolute way to prevent an STI is to not have sex (abstinence). Having a sexual relationship with only one person (monogamous) can reduce the risk. Use a condom every time you have sex. (See: Safe sex)
You can reduce the risk of PID by getting regular STI screening exams. Couples can be tested before starting to have sex. Testing can detect infections that are not yet causing symptoms.
All sexually active women ages 20 - 25 and younger should be screened each year for chlamydia and gonorrhea. All women with new sexual partners or multiple partners should also be screened.
Workowski KA, Berman S; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Sexually transmitted diseases treatment guidelines, 2010. MMWR Recomm Rep. 2010;59(RR-12):1-110.
Meyers D, Wolff T, Gregory K, et al. USPSTF recommendations for STI screening. Am Fam Physician. 2008;77:819-824.
Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington, School of Medicine; Susan Storck, MD, FACOG, Chief, Eastside Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Group Health Cooperative of Puget Sound, Bellevue, Washington; Clinical Teaching Faculty, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.