Pelvic inflammatory disease
NHS Choices - Complications of pelvic inflammatory disease
There are several complications associated with pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), including repeated episodes of PID, an abscess forming and an increased risk of an ectopic pregnancy or infertility.
Recurrent pelvic inflammatory disease
Women often experience repeated episodes of PID, this is known as recurrent pelvic inflammatory disease. The more often a woman gets PID, the more likely she is to get it in the future.
The condition can return if the initial infection is not entirely cured or because a sexual partner has not been tested and treated.
If an initial episode of PID damages the cervix, it can become easier for bacteria to move into the reproductive organs in the future, making you more susceptible to developing the condition again. Repeated episodes of PID are associated with an increased risk of infertility.
Sometimes, PID can cause abscesses on the lips at the entrance of the vagina (Bartholin's cysts) and in the fallopian tubes and ovaries. An abscess is a collection of infected fluid. It can usually be treated with antibiotics. If an abscess does not respond to antibiotics, you may require surgery.
It is important that abscesses inside the pelvis are either treated or removed, as an abscess that bursts can be potentially life threatening.
The word ectopic means in the wrong place. In a normal pregnancy, the fertilised egg implants in the womb lining. An ectopic pregnancy is one that occurs outside the womb.
More than 95% of ectopic pregnancies occur in a fallopian tube. If PID develops in the fallopian tubes, it can scar the lining of the tubes, making it more difficult for eggs to pass through. If a fertilised egg gets stuck and begins to grow inside the tube, it can cause the tube to burst, which can sometimes lead to severe internal bleeding. Ectopic pregnancy can be life threatening.
It is estimated that one woman in five women with PID becomes infertile as a result. This means they will be unable to get pregnant naturally. PID can make a woman infertile by scarring the fallopian tubes so severely that it makes it impossible for the egg to travel down into the womb. Delaying treatment for PID can increase your chances of becoming infertile.
Read more information about infertility.
If you want to get pregnant after becoming infertile from PID, you could consider an assisted conception technique such as in-vitro fertilisation (IVF). With IVF treatment, eggs are surgically removed from a woman's ovaries and then fertilised with sperm in a laboratory, before being planted into the woman's womb. IVF does not have a very high success rate.