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Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID)

Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is an infection of the fallopian tubes, uterus, or ovaries. Most girls with PID develop it after getting a sexually transmitted disease (STD), such as chlamydia or gonorrhea.

Girls who have sex with different partners or don't use condoms are most likely to get STDs and be at risk for PID. If PID is not treated, it can lead to internal scarring that might cause ongoing pelvic pain, infertility, or an ectopic pregnancy.

What Are the Symptoms of PID?

PID can cause severe symptoms or very mild to no symptoms. Girls who do have symptoms may notice:

What Can Happen?

Any girl who has signs of an STD should get medical care as soon as possible. An untreated STD has a greater chance of becoming PID.

If PID is not treated or goes unrecognized, it can continue to spread through a girl's reproductive organs. Untreated PID may lead to long-term reproductive problems, including:

How Is PID Diagnosed and Treated?

If you think you may have PID, see your gynecological health care provider (your family doctor or nurse practitioner, gynecologist, or adolescent doctor) right away. The longer a girl waits before getting treatment, the more likely it is that she will have problems.

If a doctor thinks a girl has PID, he or she will do a physical exam, including a pelvic exam. The exam can show if a girl has a painful cervix, abnormal discharge from the cervix, or pain over one or both ovaries.

The doctor may also take swabs of fluid from the cervix and vagina, and this fluid will be tested for STDs. He or she may also do a pregnancy test. Sometimes health providers take blood or do urine tests to look for signs of infection, including STDs like chlamydia and gonorrhea.

Sometimes doctors need an ultrasound or CAT scan of the lower abdomen to see what's going on with a girl's reproductive organs. Ultrasounds are often used to diagnose a TOA or ectopic pregnancy.

If doctors find that a girl has PID, they will prescribe antibiotics to take for a couple of weeks. It's vital to take every dose of the medicine to completely treat the infection, even if a girl's symptoms go away before she finishes the medicine. It's also important that girls with PID get rechecked 2–3 days after beginning treatment to make sure that they are improving. A girl who has taken all her medicine for PID but still isn't feeling better should follow up with her doctor. 

Girls with more severe cases of PID might have a fever or vomiting, and not respond to medicines by mouth. They, and girls with PID who are pregnant, often are treated in the hospital for a few days with antibiotics given directly into a vein through an IV. Surgery is sometimes needed if a girl has an abscess. Ectopic pregnancies can require emergency surgery.

If a girl has PID, her sexual partners should be checked for STDs right away so they can get treatment. And, a couple should hold off on having sex again until at least 7 days after both partners have finished treatment. An untreated partner is likely to reinfect a girl with the same STD again.

Can PID Be Prevented?

The best way to prevent STDs or PID is to not have sex (abstinence). For those who choose to have sex, it's important to use protection and to have as few sexual partners as possible. Using latex condoms properly and every time you have sex helps protect against most STDs. However, it's also very important to have regular checkups with your doctor. And if either partner has any symptoms of STDs, both partners should be tested and treated as soon as possible.

So when you're making choices about sex, be smart and be safe.

Date reviewed: November 2016

Note: All information on TeensHealth® is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.

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