Pelvic inflammatory disease
NHS Choices - Introduction
Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is a bacterial infection of the female upper genital tract, including the womb, fallopian tubes and ovaries.
It’s a common disease and around 1 in 50 sexually active women in the UK are diagnosed with PID every year. Many more women with PID experience few or no symptoms.
PID mostly affects sexually active women between the ages of 15 and 24.
What are the symptoms of PID?
PID can be difficult to diagnose as the symptoms of PID are not always obvious. However, the warning signs can include:
- pain around the pelvis or lower abdomen
- discomfort or pain during sex that is felt deep inside the pelvis
- bleeding between periods and after sex
- unusual vaginal discharge, especially if it is yellow or green
- fever and vomiting
When to see your GP
It’s important to see your GP if you experience any of the above symptoms. Delaying treatment for PID or having repeated episodes of PID can increase your risk of infertility.
To diagnose PID, your GP may need to carry out several tests including a swab test, blood test or an ultrasound scan. In severe cases of PID where other conditions are suspected, you may need a laparoscopy.
You can also visit a sexual health clinic for a check-up.
Read more information about diagnosing PID.
What causes PID?
Most cases of PID are caused by an infection that has spread from the vagina or the neck of the womb (cervix) to the reproductive organs higher up.
This means that the most effective way of preventing PID is to protect yourself against STIs by using a barrier method of contraception such as a male or female condom, and to get regular sexual health check-ups.
Read more information about the causes of PID.
When infection spreads upwards from the cervix (entrance to the womb), it causes one or more of the following:
- inflammation and infection of the endometrium (womb lining), known as endometritis
- inflammation and infection of the fallopian tubes, known as salpingitis
- inflammation and infection of the tissue around the womb, known as parametritis
- inflammation and infection of the ovaries, known as oophoritis
- a pocket of infected fluid in the ovary and fallopian tube, known as an abscess
- inflammation and infection of the peritoneum (lining of the inside of the abdomen), known as pelvic peritonitis
If you develop salpingitis, the lining of the fallopian tubes swells and the canals become even narrower. This means that fertilised eggs may not be able to move along them normally, increasing the risk of ectopic pregnancy (a pregnancy that starts outside of the womb) and infertility.
Read more information about the complications of PID.
If diagnosed at an early stage, PID can be treated quickly with a course of antibiotics which usually lasts for 14 days. It is important to complete the whole course, and to avoid having sexual intercourse during this time as it can interrupt the healing process.
However, further infection is common. After a first episode of PID, one woman in five has more episodes, mostly within two years.
Read more information about how PID is treated.
An estimated one woman in five who have PID becomes infertile as a result. However, most women are able to get pregnant without problems after a single episode of PID.