Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is a condition that occurs when an infection moves to a woman’s reproductive tract. It is often caused by a sexually transmitted infection that has gone untreated: For example, if a woman has gonorrhea or chlamydia and does not realize it or does not get treatment, it can progress and result in pelvic inflammatory disease.
Pelvic inflammatory disease begins at a woman’s vagina or cervix (the opening to the uterus) and from there moves further into the reproductive tract. The more it advances the more damage it can cause to a woman’s body and her fertility. PID can cause irreversible damage to a woman’s fallopian tubes and ovaries, and many women end up struggling with infertility as a result.
The symptoms of pelvic inflammatory disease include: abnormal bleeding, fever, pain during urination and/or during intercourse, unusual vaginal discharge and odor, and occasionally pain in the right upper abdomen. However, the unfortunate fact is that the symptoms of PID can often go unnoticed until the damage has spread quite far. This is particularly true if you contract PID as a result of a chlamydia infection, because then the symptoms are quite mild and can easily go undetected. This is why it is so important to always practice safer sex (condoms and dental dams during all sexual activity whether it’s intercourse, anal sex, or oral sex) and limit your number of sexual partners. All sex comes with some risk, but if you have sex with numerous partners or with partners whose sexual history and health is a mystery, you will put yourself at much greater risk of contracting sexually transmitted infections or diseases (STI/STDs) and their associated symptoms.
Your risk of developing pelvic inflammatory disease can increase based on certain factors:
It is believed that women with intrauterine devices (IUDs) might
be at a greater risk of developing PID, and for this reason, women are
encouraged to get IUDs only if they are monogamous. Talk to your doctor
honestly about your sexual partners before you commit to an IUD.
- Having more than one sexual partner gives you a
greater risk of contracting an STI/STD, even if you use condoms. And, remember,
STIs such as chlamydia can be spread during oral sex, so this can also increase
your likelihood of infection and long-term consequences such as PID.
- Young women are also at greater risk of
contracting PID than older women, presumably because their reproductive organs
aren’t totally developed and their cervix is more open. This means the
infection can more easily be contracted and spread.
- Another risk factor for PID appears to be douching. Women who douche might damage the delicate pH of the vagina and strip their body of needed bacteria that help to stave off infections. Remember, you never need to douche: Your vagina is “self-cleaning,” and you never need to wash inside this delicate area. A little warm water is all that’s required to clean your labia. (Additionally, keep in mind that douching is not effective as a contraceptive measure.)
Talk to your doctor if you have experienced any of the symptoms of PID; but even if you haven’t, keep in mind the importance of safer sex and of regular Pap smears and STI testing. Your health is too important to ignore.