What is pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)?

Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is an infection of the female reproductive organs. PID usually is contracted through sexual contact. PID can damage the uterus, ovaries, Fallopian tubes, or other parts of the female reproductive system. It also can cause severe pain and make it difficult to become pregnant.

How common is pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)?

Each year, more than 1 million women in the United States have an episode of PID. As a result of PID, more than 100,000 women become infertile (unable to have a baby) each year. In addition, a large proportion of the ectopic (tubal) pregnancies that occur each year can be linked to PID. The rate of infection is highest among teenagers.

What are the risk factors for pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)?

  • Women with sexually transmitted diseases—especially gonorrhea and chlamydia—are at greater risk for developing PID.
  • Women with many sexual partners are at greater risk for sexually transmitted diseases and PID.
  • Women who have already had PID are at higher risk for another episode.
  • Sexually active teenagers are more likely to develop PID than are older women.

Some studies suggest that douching may contribute to PID. Douching may push bacteria into the upper genital tract and may mask the discharge that could cause a woman to seek medical attention.

What are the complications of pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)?

Repeated episodes of PID can result in scarring of the Fallopian tubes, which can lead to infertility, ectopic (tubal) pregnancy, or chronic (long-term) pelvic pain. Among women who have had PID, 1 in 8 have difficulties getting pregnant.

What causes pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)?

Normally, the cervix prevents bacteria that enter the vagina from spreading to the internal reproductive organs. If the cervix is exposed to a sexually transmitted disease—such as gonorrhea and chlamydia—the cervix itself becomes infected and is less able to prevent the spread of organisms to the internal organs. PID occurs when the disease-causing organisms travel from the cervix to the upper genital tract. Untreated gonorrhea and chlamydia cause about 90% of all cases of PID. Other causes include abortion, childbirth, and pelvic procedures.

What are the symptoms of pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)?

The symptoms of PID can vary, but may include the following: