The Five Most Important Things You Should Know About: Pelvic Inflammatory Disease

Every year, one million U.S. women will become infected with pelvic inflammatory disease, also known as PID, an infection or inflammation of various reproductive organs. Yikes! This common disease can cause many other problems, including infertility and other conditions that may lead to death. Sorry for the quick scare, but it’s true, and you should know. Thankfully, the proper prevention and care can help prevent those complications.

  1. It’s normal for certain amounts and types of bacteria to reside in the vaginal area. However, sex and douching can cause them to get pushed further inside the body where they don’t belong. This can cause PID. Having sex with multiple partners, a partner who has multiple partners, or a partner who has an STD can greatly increase the risk. Bacterial STDs, such as gonorrhea and chlamydia, are common factors in PID cases.
  2. Unfortunately, more than half of all PID cases go undetected until the damage has been done. Many times there are few to no symptoms, especially in PID that occurs from chlamydia. Ladies, if you’re experiencing fever, pain during intercourse or urination, abdominal pain, or irregular bleeding during your menstrual cycle, it’s time to get tested ASAP. A rare pain also can occur in the upper abdominal region.
  3. PID can lead to serious complications. Infertility is one. It can cause ectopic (tubal) pregnancies, which almost always result in the loss of the fetus. Ectopic pregnancies can lead to serious pain, bleeding internally, and death of the mother. If PID occurs during an otherwise normal pregnancy (not ectopic), serious complications can arise.
  4. PID is often difficult to detect because of the lack of symptoms. Even doctors can miss it. Can you believe there is no test specific for detecting PID? Instead, it’s discovered based on a physical examination and other clinical data. Some of that data includes vaginal cultures and tests for STDs. Doctors might do a pelvic ultrasound or a pelvic laparoscopy in certain cases. Both help doctors examine the pelvic region more closely.
  5. The best way to safeguard against PID is to abstain from sex and douching. Those who are sexually active should be tested for STDs regularly (and so should their partners), as well as practice safe sex using a latex condom every time. Any abnormal symptoms experienced in the genital or abdominal region should prompt a visit to the doctor. Some of these symptoms can include abdominal bleeding, foul-smelling or unusually colored discharge, sores, painful intercourse or urination, and irregular menstrual bleeding. [CDC, Mayo Clinic]
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