Living with pelvic inflammatory disease

Living with pelvic inflammatory disease

Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is a common but serious disease that affects around 220,000 women in the UK each year. The disease is most likely to occur in sexually active women between the ages of 15 and 24 and is caused by a bacterial infection in the reproductive tract.

Our short guide explains what it is, what causes it and how you can prevent it.

What is pelvic inflammatory disease?

Pelvic inflammatory disease is an infection of the female reproductive system which includes the womb, fallopian tubes and ovaries. PID is a common condition, although it’s not clear how many people in the UK are affected.

What causes pelvic inflammatory disease?

Most cases of PID are caused by a bacterial infection that’s spread from the vagina or the cervix to the reproductive organs higher up.  PID can also be caused by a sexually transmitted infection (STI) such as chlamydia or gonorrhoea or – in some cases – by the insertion of an intrauterine device (IUD).

What are the most common pelvic inflammatory disease symptoms?

PID often doesn’t cause any obvious symptoms. Most of the symptoms are mild and may include one of the following:

  • Pain around the pelvis or lower tummy
  • Discomfort or pain during sex that’s felt deep inside the pelvis
  • Pain when passing urine
  • Bleeding between periods and after sex
  • Heavy or painful periods
  • Unusual vaginal discharge, especially if it’s yellow, green or smelly

A few people can become very ill with:

  • Severe pain in the tummy
  • A high temperature (fever)
  • Feeling and being sick

If you have any of these PID symptoms, it’s important to visit a GP or a sexual health clinic. If you are experiencing severe pain, you should seek urgent medical attention from either your GP or your local A & E department.

Any delayed treatment for PID or having repeated episodes of PID can increase your risk of serious and long-term complications.

How is pelvic inflammatory disease diagnosed?

There is no simple test to diagnose PID, it’s based purely on your symptoms and the finding of tenderness during an internal (vaginal) examination. A swab will be taken from your vagina and the neck of the womb (cervix), but any negative swabs do not necessarily rule out PID.

What is the treatment for pelvic inflammatory disease?

If pelvic inflammatory disease is diagnosed at an early stage, it can be treated with a course of antibiotics which will usually last for 14 days.

You’ll be given a mixture of antibiotics to cover the most likely infections.  It’s important to finish the whole course of the tablets and avoid having sexual intercourse during this time as it will help ensure the infection clears.

Your recent sexual partners will also need to be tested and treated to stop the infection coming back or being spread to others.

Can pelvic inflammatory disease affect my fertility?

The fallopian tube can become scarred and narrowed if they’re affected by PID. This can make it difficult for eggs to pass from the ovaries into the womb.

This can in turn increase your changes of having a pregnancy in the fallopian tubes (ectopic pregnancy) instead of the womb in the near future.

Some people with PID become infertile as a result of the condition. If you have had delayed treatment or have experienced repeated episodes of PID, then you’re more at risk.

How can I avoid pelvic inflammatory disease?

You can reduce your risk of developing PID by always using a condom with a new sexual partner until they have had a sexual health check. If you’re worried you might have an STI, you can visit your local genitourinary medicine (GUM) or sexual health clinic for advice.

Discreet help for PID at Benenden Hospital

If you’re experiencing the symptoms of pelvic inflammatory disease, we can help. Our Private GPs can take the time to discuss your symptoms and arrange any tests you might need. To make an appointment, contact our Private Patient team by completing our online enquiry form or by calling 01580 363158.

Published on 23 June 2022