Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)

What is pelvic inflammatory disease?
Pelvic inflammatory disease (Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)) is usually the result of infection which moves up into the womb and tubes, from lower down in the female sex organs (genital tract).

What causes Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)?
Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) may occur either from bacteria which are already present in the vagina or those which can be passed on during sex, for example chlamydia and gonorrhoea. When bacteria gets through the cervix (the neck of the womb), Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) can sometimes occur. A thick layer of mucous usually protects against infection entering the cervix.

Some procedures involve opening the cervix, for example having an intrauterine contraceptive (the coil) fitted or having a minor gynaecological operation. This can make women more prone to Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), especially if there is an infection already present in the vagina or cervix. However, Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) can occur in women who have not had such a procedure.

What are the symptoms of Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)?
Very often symptoms can be so mild they go unnoticed. If symptoms are present, they may include abdominal pain, bleeding between periods, unusual vaginal discharge and discomfort when you are having penetrative vaginal sex.

Your partner may or may not have symptoms of a genital infection. In either case, examination and treatment for both of you is recommended to reduce the risk of Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) coming back.

Is there a risk of fertility problems after Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)?
Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) can sometimes cause the fallopian tubes to become inflamed and swollen. This can lead to them getting blocked or damaged which may prevent passage of an egg from the ovary (where the eggs are stored) to the womb. Or there can be a risk of ectopic pregnancy (fertilised eggs developing in the fallopian tube).

It is important to put this risk into perspective. One episode has a low risk of infertility but the risk increases with each recurrent episode of Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). So, it is important that you and your partner are adequately treated to prevent having more episodes of Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID).

How do I know I have Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)?
The diagnosis is usually made by a doctor based on your symptoms and a pelvic examination. Swab tests are taken for the various infections which can cause Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) and, if necessary, your sexual partner will be offered tests also.

How is Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) treated?
It is usually treated with antibiotic tablets. It is important that you follow the instructions about taking the tablets and complete the course to ensure the infection is treated even if you are feeling better.

You will be advised not to have sex during the course of the treatment and until your partner has also been treated. If you are on the contraceptive pill, you should continue to take the pill as normal while you are taking your antibiotics. However the pill may not be effective due to interference from the antibiotics. This should be discussed with the doctor/nurse.

Remember, if your partner has not yet been treated, you should wait until he has been before having sex. Following this treatment the doctor will see you again. If your symptoms have not settled then the doctor may recommend a more accurate way of assessing your condition and this is a surgical procedure known as a laparoscopy.

Under general anaesthetic a fine telescope (called a laparoscope) is passed through a tiny incision below the belly button so the pelvic organs can be seen. Following this procedure the doctor will be able to decide on how best to proceed with your treatment.

Safer Sex
Safer sex means protecting you and your partner from sexually transmitted infections. These are infections passed from one person to another during sex. If you are having vaginal or anal sex, condoms can help make it safer and more fun. Condoms have really changed. You can get them in all different colours, shapes and flavours.

You can also get female condoms. They are called femidoms and are a tube shape made out of very thin material which lines the vagina.

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