Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID)

PID stands for pelvic inflammatory disease, a serious infection of a woman's reproductive organs. PID is a leading cause of infertility (inability to have children) in the United States. It can lead to life-threatening complications.

What causes PID?

The most common causes of PID are two sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), chlamydia and gonorrhea. Other bacteria or germs may also be a cause. PID occurs when an infection in the genital tract isn't treated right away. The infection spreads from the cervix up into the uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries. PID can develop anywhere from several days to several months after infection with an STD.

Why is PID dangerous?

PID can cause scarring in the fallopian tubes, which can lead to tubal pregnancy (a life-threatening pregnancy in which there is no chance of producing a baby). A woman who has had PID may have problems getting pregnant or be unable to have children at all. PID can also cause long-lasting pain.

What are the symptoms of PID?

The most common symptom of PID is dull pain or tenderness in the lower abdomen. Other possible symptoms include:

  • Bleeding between menstrual periods
  • Increased or changed vaginal discharge
  • Pain during sex
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Fever and chills

Many women have no symptoms or symptoms too mild to notice. However, PID can cause permanent damage even when it is completely painless.

How can PID be prevented?

The best way to prevent PID is to prevent sexually transmitted diseases. If you have sex, get tested for chlamydia and gonorrhea at least once a year. If you think you may have an STD, get tested and treated right away, before the infection spreads.

For more information on PID, including treatment and how your partner can help prevent PID, visit the American Sexual Health Association website.


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This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. This information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.