(Edit: Sorry for the late post! This was supposed to go up yesterday but didn’t due to a technical glitch.)
Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is an infection of the cervix, uterus, Fallopian tubes and/or ovaries. PID is not a specific sexually transmitted infection, it is more like the common cold or pneumonia—a disease that can be the result of a variety of different infectious agents or other causes. PID most often develops as a complication of other STIs such as chlamydia and gonorrhea.
PID is one of the poster children for why everyone should get tested regularly. Catching other STIs early can seriously reduce your risk of getting PID, and catching PID early is critical to avoiding severe complications.
You do not need to have sex to get PID. While it is most often associated with sexual transmission, diseases that are not sexually transmitted can also cause PID. The most common non-sexual causes of PID are childbirth, abortion, insertion of an IUD, and “pelvic procedures.” Basically, if it impacts or affects the cervix it may transfer bacteria through the cervix and cause infection. A regular vaginal infection can (rarely) become PID if the cervix is weakened or damaged.
Outside of being celibate (and never getting any pelvic procedures), you can’t prevent PID. You can reduce your risk in several ways. Get tested for chlamydia and gonorrhea regularly, don’t douche, don’t get IUDs, and (as always) be in a sexually monogamous relationship. And of course anything that prevents other STIs (like using condoms) is a good way to prevent PID.
PID is caused by bacterial infections, so it can be treated with antibiotics. It is very important to continue treatment even after symptoms go away. If you don’t finish the treatment, the PID may come back and cause further complications.
If you and your partner both have PID it is very important not to have sex during treatment or you might reinfect each other (I hope it goes without saying that you probably shouldn’t be having sex with anyone else either.)
If the disease is too far advanced, doctors may recommend surgery to remove abscesses. In extreme cases, a hysterectomy may be necessary.
PID does not always cause symptoms, and symptoms may be mild. Symptoms include
- Pain in your lower abdomen;
- An unusual discharge with a bad odor from your vagina;
- Pain and/or bleeding when you have sex;
- Burning sensation when you urinate; or
- Bleeding between periods.
Any STI where possible treatments include the word “hysterectomy” obviously has some pretty severe complications. Swelling, abscesses and scar tissue may block the Fallopian tubes leading to infertility and/or ectopic pregnancies. Scarring of the uterus may also lead to infertility. Recurring abdominal pain is also possible.
Go back to The Long List of STIs
Learn more: Safer Sex for the Non-Monogamous
2 thoughts on “STI: Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID)”
Hi Jess. I was diagnosed with PID today, I got the most terrible pain in my abdomen. But I have been celibate for 2 years and 4 months now. Can it be that I had a STI all this time? Before I decided to live celibate I had a promiscuous stage after my divorce. Is it possible that I had an infection all this time?
Jo-Anne, your doctor would be the best person to ask about this. There are some STIs, like chlamydia, that don’t have symptoms until complications (like PID) develop. But I don’t know how long it typically takes for complications to develop or if not having any symptoms for several years might be normal. There are some STIs you can get without having sex, like bacterial vaginosis. So the best I can say is that it may be possible, or maybe something else happened, and you need to talk with your doctor.
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