Every sexually active woman should know of PID (Pelvic Inflammatory Disease). Most women diagnosed with this infection are under the age of twenty five. Unfortunately, many women find out that they have had this infection, years later, when they are diagnosed with infertility.Other consequences of PID include chronic pelvic pain and ectopic pregnancy (pregnancy in the fallopian tube instead of in the uterus).
The most frequent cause of PID is an initial infection with Gonorrhea (gon-o-ri-a) or Chlamydia (Cla-mid-e-a). Basically, PID occurs when infection passes the cervix (the opening to the uterus or womb), ascends into the uterus and further, up into the fallopian tubes. Most physicians will diagnose PID when a woman presents with lower abdominal pain and the cervix, uterus and tubes are tender on the gynecological exam. Pain is often accompanied by fever or vaginal discharge. Some women will only have mild pain while others will have unusual signs like bleeding between periods, bleeding with sex, frequent need to urinate or nausea and vomiting. 1
PID can be treated with antibiotics even though some women, those with severe infections, will need hospitalization. If the infection involves just the cervix or just the cervix and the uterus, there are no long term damages. However, once the infection reaches the fallopian tubes, permanent damage can occur, even with treatment. Once the inside of the tubes are scarred, infertility can result. And, even if a woman is able to become pregnant, a fertilized egg may not be able to slide into the uterus because the pathway is scarred; this is how ectopic pregnancies are formed. Lastly, scarring can occur outside, as well as inside the tubes, causing constant pain that does not respond to antibiotics.
I’m often surprised that some women take great offense when I offer testing for Gonorrhea and Chlamydia. Finding and treating these infections early is the best way to protect one’s ability to have children in the future. It is also important to limit the number of sexual partners and to practice the consistent use of condoms. Also important, Bacterial Vaginosis (Read my blog: The Fishy Vaginal Odor) weakens the vagina’s natural ability to keep bacteria from moving up into the uterus and into the fallopian tubes; BV should be treated when present.
Each episode of PID causes more damage and waiting days before seeking medical attention only allows the infection time to reek havoc.
There you have it! Now spread the word!!
1. Obstetrics & Gynecology vol. 116. num 2, part 1, August 2010