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Medical Description

Pelvic inflammatory disease (or PID) is an acute infection of a woman's reproductive organs. The infection may be present in the uterus, fallopian tubes and/or ovaries.


PID most often results from a sexually transmitted infection (STI) that has spread from the vagina and cervix throughout the pelvic organs. Gonorrhea and chlamydia infections are the two most common causes. A woman may also develop PID as a result of:

  • pelvic surgery
  • complications from giving birth
  • infection from an IUD
  • miscarriage
  • abortion
  • endometrial biopsy
  • hysterosalpingogram (a procedure to x-ray the inside of the uterus and fallopian tubes)
  • donor insemination

Complications if not treated

As the name implies, pelvic inflammatory disease causes inflammation. This is the same process that occurs if a cut in your skin gets infected. When the tissue is "inflamed," it becomes swollen, hot, red and painful. Pus may be present. Inflammation and infection can damage the tissue and leave permanent scars. If PID is not treated right away, it is this scarring that can lead to serious long-term consequences, including infertility, ectopic pregnancy, chronic pelvic pain, tubo-ovarian abscesses and peritonitis (inflammation of the tissue that lines the wall of the abdomen and covers the abdominal organs). In extreme cases, untreated PID can result in death.

When PID is treated promptly, most cases are completely resolved. However, if not treated early enough, PID can have long-term consequences. Twenty percent of women who have one episode of PID experience fertility problems and this risk is higher for women who have more than one episode. The rates of chronic pelvic pain are harder to estimate because both PID and chronic pelvic pain are under-diagnosed. Chronic pelvic pain is most likely for women who have PID more than once or who have severe PID symptoms. The risk of ectopic pregnancy is six to 10 times higher for women with a history of PID.


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Pelvic Inflammatory Disease

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