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Pelvic inflammatory disease

6-minute read

Key facts

  • Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is inflammation or infection of the pelvic area.
  • It is often caused by sexually transmitted infections (STIs) but can be caused by other non-sexually transmitted bacteria from the vagina.
  • If you have PID you need antibiotic treatment for at least 2 weeks and may your doctors may recommend you go to hospital for treatment.
  • Without treatment, PID can lead to fertility problems, chronic (long term) pelvic pain, ectopic pregnancy (a pregnancy that grows outside your uterus) and poor pregnancy outcomes.

What is pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)?

PID is infection or inflammation of the tissue lining the pelvis or female reproductive organs such as the cervix, endometrium (lining of the uterus), fallopian tubes or ovaries.

Illustration showing the pelvic inflammatory diseases
Pelvic inflammatory disease is an infection or inflammation of one or more organs in the pelvic area.

What are the symptoms of PID?

Symptoms of PID may include:

It can be hard to tell that you have PID as you may not have any symptoms. If you have symptoms, see your doctor.

CHECK YOUR SYMPTOMS — Use the Symptom Checker and find out if you need to seek medical help.

What causes PID?

PID is caused by an infection spreading from the cervix to other female reproductive organs and the pelvis. This is usually from unprotected sex leading to sexually transmitted infection (STIs), most often gonorrhoea or chlamydia. Non-STI bacteria found in the vagina such as those causing bacterial vaginosis can also lead to PID.

More rarely, the infection can happen after a surgical abortion or after the insertion of an intrauterine contraceptive device (IUD), which allows bacteria to spread upwards.

Other risk factors for PID include having a new sexual partner or having a partner with an STI or symptoms of an STI.

How is PID diagnosed?

PID is diagnosed by your doctor, based on your symptoms and a physical examination. Vaginal and cervical swabs may confirm the type of infection it is, but do not always give you an answer. Other tests you may have include a blood test, a urine test including a pregnancy test and an ultrasound, which can help rule out other serious causes of the pain.

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How is PID treated?

PID is treated with a combination of antibiotics — you may need to take these for at least 14 days. If your doctor thinks you may have PID, you will start treatment before you get the swab results back and continue it regardless of swab results.

If you have severe PID symptoms (fever, nausea, vomiting) or are pregnant your doctor may recommend that you go to hospital for treatment with intravenous (IV) antibiotics.

You can take paracetamol and NSAIDs for pain. Be sure you rest while you are recovering.

How can I prevent spread of PID?

Your current sexual partner should also be tested and treated. Avoid sex for at least one week after treatment, and until your partner has had a course of treatment. If you or your partner/s are diagnosed with an STI, your previous sexual partners may need to get checked.

Let Them Know is a free notification service for people who have been diagnosed with an STI to easily let their sexual partners know they might be at risk.

Your doctor or nurse can also help you with how to contact trace your sexual partners.

What are the complications of PID?

PID can lead to:

  • scarring of the fallopian tubes causing fertility problems
  • persistent pelvic pain
  • ectopic pregnancy (a pregnancy that develops outside of the uterus, such as in the fallopian tubes)

Having an STI in pregnancy can lead to miscarriage, premature birth and stillbirth. By treating PID early you can reduce your risk of complications.

Can PID be prevented?

Condoms are the best way to protect you against STIs and PID.

PID does not always cause symptoms, so it's important to have regular tests for STIs if you are sexually active. You should also have an STI check before gynaecological procedures such as IUD insertion or abortion.

Resources and support

Family Planning NSW has a factsheet about PID.

Do you prefer to read in languages other than English?

Information in PID is available in many community languages from Health Translations Victoria.

Looking for information for Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people?

Better to Know is a sexual health resource for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. It contains information that deals with both men's and women's business.

Looking for information for sexually and gender-diverse families?

Read more about sexual health for trans, non-binary & gender diverse people, from Alfred Health.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: December 2023


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