Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is a serious condition that affects the female reproductive organ. It is most commonly caused by complications of an untreated sexually transmitted disease and can cause chronic pain and infertility. In fact, an estimated 12.5 percent of women with pelvic inflammatory disease will experience difficulties conceiving at some point in their lives.
While the effects of pelvic inflammatory disease can be significant, the condition is preventable and treatable. This article covers what you need to know to protect yourself from developing pelvic inflammatory disease.
Pelvic inflammatory disease is an infection that occurs in the female reproductive organs. While not considered a sexually transmitted disease (STD), pelvic inflammatory disease can develop as a complication of untreated STDs like gonorrhea and chlamydia. In fact, an estimated 85% of pelvic inflammatory disease cases are caused by bacteria from an untreated sexually transmitted disease.
In most cases, pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) occurs when bacteria from a sexually transmitted disease spreads from the vagina to other parts of the female reproductive system such as the ovaries, fallopian tubes, or uterus. However, other non sexually transmitted diseases can also cause the infection.
There is no single cause of pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). In most cases, it occurs as a result of having an untreated sexually transmitted disease. However, all of the following factors can put you at an increased risk of getting pelvic inflammatory disease:
- Having a sexually transmitted disease and not receiving treatment
- Having more than one sexual partner
- Having a sexual partner who has multiple sexual partners
- Being sexually active and under the age of 26
- Having a history of pelvic inflammatory disease
- Using an intrauterine device (IUD) as a birth control method
It should go without saying that the risk of getting pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) due to an intrauterine device is small and is limited to the first three weeks after the device is implanted in the uterus.
It can be difficult to determine if you have pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). There is not a test to confirm if someone has the infection, and symptoms tend to be mild or unnoticeable. When symptoms do occur in someone with pelvic inflammatory disease, they generally include some of the following:
- Pain that varies in severity in the lower abdomen and pelvis
- Fever with or without chills
- Abnormal or increased vaginal discharge with or without an unpleasant smell
- Bleeding or pain during intercourse
- Urination that is painful, difficult, or frequent
- Bleeding between periods
If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, it is best to promptly consult with a healthcare professional. Your doctor will make a diagnosis based on your combination of symptoms and sexual history.
In addition, it is important to see a healthcare professional if you suspect that you or your partner has a sexually transmitted disease. Doing so can prevent the sexually transmitted disease from progressing further and causing complications like pelvic inflammatory disease (PID).
The long term effects and complications of pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) can be prevented if diagnosed and treated early. If left untreated, the following complications can occur:
- Chronic or long term pain in the lower abdomen and pelvis
- Development of scar tissue inside and outside of the fallopian tubes
- Blockage of the fallopian tubes
- Ectopic pregnancy or pregnancy outside the womb
- Infertility or the inability to get pregnant
Of all the long term complications of pelvic inflammatory disease, infertility is the most significant. It is estimated that one in eight women who have had pelvic inflammatory disease at some point in their lives will have trouble getting pregnant.
Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is curable if it is caught and treated early. However, treatment can not reverse any of the damage that the condition might have caused prior to diagnosis. Due to this, it is critical to seek medical assistance immediately if you are experiencing symptoms of pelvic inflammatory disease or if you expect that you have been exposed to a sexually transmitted disease.
In most cases, pelvic inflammatory disease is treated with antibiotics. It is required that you take the full round of antibiotics even if symptoms subside. It is also possible to develop the condition again after treatment if you become reinfected with a sexually transmitted disease. In fact, those with a history of pelvic inflammatory disease are at an increased risk of developing the condition again.
The only way to prevent getting an STD that can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease is by not engaging in oral, vaginal, or anal sex. However, if you are sexually active, there are other ways you can protect yourself from developing pelvic inflammatory disease, including:
- Being in a monogamous relationship with a partner who has tested negative for sexually transmitted diseases
- Using latex condoms correctly each time you have intercourse
- Consulting with a health professional if you think you or your partner has been exposed to a sexually transmitted disease
- Consulting with a health professional if you notice symptoms of pelvic inflammatory disease such as heavy discharge with an unpleasant scent, lower abdominal or pelvic pain, a burning sensation while urinating, or bleeding between menstruation.
- Getting tested for gonorrhea and chlamydia if you are under the age of 26 and sexually active.
Being proactive about your sexual health can prevent an STD and pelvic inflammatory disease from occuring.
Pelvic inflammatory disease is a condition of the female reproductive organs most commonly caused by complications of an untreated sexually transmitted disease. If left untreated, it can lead to infertility. The best way to avoid getting pelvic inflammatory disease is by having monogamous, protected sex and by getting regularly tested for sexually transmitted diseases. It is best to consult a health professional if experiencing any symptoms.