What is pelvic inflammatory disease?

What is pelvic inflammatory disease?

Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) affects the female reproductive organs including the womb, fallopian tubes and ovaries. It is a common condition that mainly affects sexually active women aged 15 – 24. Most cases are caused by bacterial infection that begins in the vagina or cervix before spreading further up.

It is estimated that around 25% of cases of PID are caused by a Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI) such as chlamydia, gonorrhoea or mycoplasma genitalium. In other cases it is thought to be caused by bacteria that normally occur in the vagina passing to the reproductive organs further up.

Symptoms of pelvic inflammatory disease

Symptoms of pelvic inflammatory disease

Some of the symptoms (signs) of pelvic inflammatory disease can be very mild or linked to other conditions making it hard to identify. Many women will have no symptoms at all. Where symptoms do occur, they can be;

  • Pain in the pelvis (below the tummy button)
  • Pain during sex and sometimes bleeding afterwards
  • Pain when peeing (urinating)
  • Unusually heavy or painful periods
  • Bleeding between periods
  • Unusual vaginal discharge (if it’s brown, red, green or smells bad)

Occasionally, women can experience severe symptoms such as very bad pain low down in their stomach, fever (high temperature) and feeling or being sick.

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms contact a Devon Sexual Health clinic near you for advice or book an appointment. Delaying treatment can increase your risk of getting serious or long term complications.

Treatment of pelvic inflammatory disease

Treatment of pelvic inflammatory disease

Antibiotics are usually used to treat pelvic inflammatory disease. The type of antibiotics will depend on the cause of the infection but will usually be an initial injection followed by a 14 day course of tablets. You need to take the full course of antibiotics, even if you have started to feel better. You should also avoid having sex, including oral, during this time until the infection has gone.

It is important that any sexual partners are also tested and treated to avoid reinfection. We can contact them anonymously on your behalf if it helps.

What should I do if I think I have pelvic inflammatory disease?

What should I do if I think I have pelvic inflammatory disease?

If you think you have pelvic inflammatory disease, you should book an appointment at a Devon Sexual Health clinic near you. You should also consider attending a walk-in service . The doctor or nurse at the clinic will probably need to examine you and do some tests to find out the cause of the infection.

Your doctor will ask you some questions about your lifestyle and your sexual health. It is likely that they will also carry out a pelvic examination to check for anything unusual. They will use a swab (a bit like a cotton bud) to take samples from the inside of your vagina and cervix. These are then used to look for signs of a bacterial infection and to identify the bacteria responsible. They may also take a blood test and request a urine sample.

How can I avoid getting pelvic inflammatory disease?

How can I avoid getting pelvic inflammatory disease?

Around 25% of cases of PID are caused by an STI. You can reduce the risk of getting pelvic inflammatory disease by limiting the number of sexual partners you have, using condoms, having sexual health check-ups at the start or end of a relationship and by being aware of your partner’s sexual health and sexual history. If you have had PID before, have a history of other STIs, or have recently had sex with a partner with an STI, then you are more likely to get pelvic inflammatory disease.

If left untreated, PID can cause long term complications such as on-going pelvic pain, ectopic pregnancy (where a fertilised egg begins to grow in a fallopian tube) or infertility. You can prevent long-term complications by making sure that you get treatment as early as possible.

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Accessing our service during the COVID pandemic

How to access our service:

We have now implemented a telephone triage system for all of our clinics. This system will be in place for the duration of the pandemic. Please contact our services to access this triage system. Our central telephone number is 0300 303 3989.

If you are experiencing symptoms of Coronavirus please do not attend the clinic. Clear advice for people with symptoms of coronavirus is available at nhs.uk/coronavirus .

Advice from our service:

We have updated information on the provision of routine contraception during this pandemic here.

More details on the fitting of LARCs (coils and implants) at our service can be found here

If you need the combined contraceptive pill please try (if you can) to get updated measurements of your height, weight and blood pressure before calling us.

There is also specific advice on coronavirus available for People Living with HIV here, and for pregnant women here

Self-requested Sexual Health screening by post is available for for under 25s only - more info here

For others with testing requirements please contact the service on 0300 303 3989.

Alternative provision:

Please be aware that we may have to cancel, rearrange or shut clinical services in response to changing clinical and staffing pressures created by the Coronavirus pandemic. 

If you are struggling to access sexual health services, alternatives may be available:

  • Emergency Contraception - at your local pharmacy - more info
  • Contraceptive pills and LARC procedures - obtained from your GP
  • HIV postal testing - available to at-risk groups for a small fee -  more info
  • HIV PEPSE - available via A+E departments - more info
  • Condoms by post (for gay and bisexual men only) - more info