Pelvic Inflammatory Disease

What is PID?

PID is inflammation caused by infections ascending from the vagina or cervix to the upper genital tract. This includes the lining of the uterus, the ovaries, the fallopian tubes, the uterine wall and the uterine ligaments that hold these structures in place. It is estimated that there are approximately 1 million cases of PID in the U.S. each year. PID is the most common serious infection among people with vaginas ages 16 to 25.

What causes it?

PID is caused by an infection which spreads into the uterus and fallopian tubes. Most cases of PID are caused by sexually transmitted infections. Douching can increase the risk of PID, because it can push bacteria or infections upwards into the reproductive tract. The insertion of an IUD also poses a small increased risk, but this is limited to the first three weeks after the IUD is placed. 

Why is it important to treat PID?

  • Untreated pelvic infections may cause adhesions in the fallopian tubes, which may lead to infertility.

  • 1 in 4 people with acute PID develop future problems such as ectopic pregnancy or chronic pelvic pain from adhesions. Early treatment can usually prevent these problems.

What are the symptoms?

  • Painful intercourse could be the first sign of infection.

  • Pain and tenderness involving the lower abdomen, cervix, uterus and ovaries

  • Fever and chills

  • Nausea and/or diarrhea

  • Abnormal vaginal bleeding or discharge

How is it treated?

If treated early, PID usually resolves. If untreated, the infection may spread to other abdominal organs and can be very serious.

  • PID is treated with antibiotics, often using a combination of antibiotics. The antibiotics may be an injection, an oral form, or both. It is critical for a patient to complete all of the prescribed medications and to keep all follow-up appointments.

  • Rest and take acetaminophen or ibuprofen for pain relief and fever.

  • Do not have sexual intercourse until your medical provider tells you it is ok.

  • It is also very important that partner(s) be treated, even if they have no symptoms of infection. This assures treatment of any possible infection and prevents reinfection or transmission to another partner.

  • Occasionally, if the infection is severe, a person may need to be hospitalized to receive antibiotics intravenously or to have a surgical procedure performed.

How can PID be prevented?

PID is usually caused by a sexually transmitted infection. To reduce your risk of PID:

  • Limit number of sexual partners.

  • Always use condoms and/or dental dams when you have sex.

  • Discuss STI prevention methods with your partner ahead of time.

  • Have regular GYN exams and Pap smears.

See your medical provider if you have concerns about abdominal pain, abnormal bleeding or discharge, painful sex, fever, chills or any other unusual gynecological symptoms. 

Related Links

To learn more about PID, you can visit:

American Social Health Association


  • 401.863-2794
    Health Promotion
  • 401.863-3953
    Health Services
  • 401.863-6000
    Sexual Assault Response Line
  • 401.863-4111
  • 401.863-3476
    Counseling & Psychological Services
  • 401.863-4111