Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is a serious women's health problem that can increase your risk of having an ectopic pregnancy and cause infertility, if left untreated. It's usually caused by bacteria transmitted during sexual intercourse, including the strains associated with gonorrhoea and chlamydia, spreading to your reproductive organs. Less commonly, PID can occur when bacteria enters the cervix as a result of childbirth or abortion, which can disturb the cervical barrier that's designed to keep bacteria out of your reproductive tract. Here's what you need to know about PID:
Initially, you may not experience any symptoms, and some women only realise they have PID when they seek treatment for infertility. However, when PID is left untreated, you can experience pelvic and lower abdominal pain, bleeding during or after intercourse, foul-smelling vaginal discharge and difficulty emptying your bladder. It's also possible to develop scar tissue and abscesses on your ovaries and fallopian tubes, which can cause blockages, interfere with your menstrual cycle and damage your reproductive organs. Abscesses can also become infected, and if an infected abscess ruptures, you're at risk of sepsis.
Diagnosis And Treatment Approach
To diagnose PID, your doctor will take details of your symptoms and examine your pelvic region. They will take cell samples from your vagina and cervix using a soft swab and these samples will be used to determine the strain of bacteria present. Blood and urine tests can also be used to check for sexually transmitted infections and a raised white cell count, which indicates an infection is present. If you're having trouble conceiving or experiencing significant pain, your doctor may carry out a laparoscopy to determine the extent of the damage to your reproductive organs. This is a minimally invasive surgical technique that involves inserting a tiny camera through a small incision in your abdomen to have a look at your uterus, ovaries and fallopian tubes.
Once diagnosed with PID, you will be prescribed a long course of antibiotics, which can prevent you developing further symptoms, but any damage to your reproductive system will remain. If oral antibiotics do not get rid of the infection, you may require stronger intravenous antibiotics, which will be administered on an in-patient basis. Scar tissue and abscesses can be surgically removed, which will reduce your risk of experiencing an ectopic pregnancy if you conceive and can help those experiencing infertility to get pregnant. As with all surgical procedures, there are risks involved, such as haemorrhaging and nerve damage, so these should be discussed with your surgeon and weighed against the benefits of the surgery.
PID is a condition that can be treated by a gynaecologist using the bulk billing system. If you're experiencing symptoms associated with PID, or if you have any concerns about your reproductive health, ask your doctor to refer you to a specialist for further investigation.