Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is an infection of the female reproductive organs. The pelvis is in the lower abdomen and includes the fallopian tubes, ovaries, cervix, and the uterus.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, this condition affects about 5 percent of women in the United States.
Several different types of bacteria can cause PID, including the same bacteria that cause the sexually transmitted infections (STIs) gonorrhea and chlamydia. What commonly occurs is that bacteria first enter the vagina and cause an infection. As time passes, this infection can move into the pelvic organs.
PID can become extremely dangerous, even life-threatening, if the infection spreads to your blood. If you suspect that you may have an infection, see your doctor as soon as possible.
Risk Factors for Pelvic Inflammatory Disease
Your risk of pelvic inflammatory disease increases if you have gonorrhea or chlamydia, or have had an STI before. However, you can develop PID without ever having an STI.
Other factors that can heighten your risk for PID include:
- having sex under the age of 25
- having multiple sex partners
- having sex without a condom
- recently having an intrauterine device (IUD) inserted
- having a history of pelvic inflammatory disease
Symptoms of Pelvic Inflammatory Disease
Some women with pelvic inflammatory disease don’t have symptoms. For the women who do have symptoms, these can include:
- pain in the lower abdomen (the most common symptom)
- pain in the upper abdomen
- painful sex
- painful urination
- irregular bleeding
- increased or foul-smelling vaginal discharge
Pelvic inflammatory disease can cause mild or moderate pain. However, some women have severe pain and symptoms, such as:
- sharp pain in the abdomen
- a high fever (greater than 101°F)
If you have severe symptoms, call your doctor immediately or go to the emergency room. The infection may have spread to your bloodstream or other parts of your body. This can be life-threatening.