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Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is an infection that starts in the vagina then spreads to the cervix, uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries. It is usually transmitted during sexual intercourse and affects approximately 5% of American women aged between 15 and 25.
Left untreated, PID can cause infertility and in some cases become life-threatening.
In this article, we will discuss pelvic inflammatory disease causes, as well as symptoms, treatment, and what you can do to prevent PID infections.
The majority of PID cases are caused by the transmission of harmful bacteria during unprotected sex. Sexually transmitted bacterial infections like gonorrhea or chlamydia will first infect the vagina before spreading further up into the cervix, womb, and eventually the fallopian tubes and ovaries.
According to studies, chlamydia is believed to instigate 50% of sexually transmitted cases of PID, while gonorrhea is thought to cause 25% of cases. It was also found that with a gonorrhea-based PID infection, there is a higher risk of the fallopian tubes becoming blocked.
Procedures where the cervix is opened, such as the insertion of an intrauterine birth control device or an abortion, can also trigger PID. In addition, scarring of the cervix after childbirth or a miscarriage can allow harmful bacterial infections to spread into the pelvic organs.
Douching can also contribute to the occurrence of PID by pushing harmful bacteria into the cervix and reproductive organs.
Although less common, a ruptured appendix or a bowel infection can also cause PID.
PID is often referred to as the “silent epidemic” because while it is commonly found in sexually active women, symptoms are not always obvious. Some women, in fact, show no symptoms at all.
Typical symptoms of PID include mild to moderate pain in the lower abdomen, discomfort when urinating, a foul-smelling vaginal discharge, fever, lack of energy, painful sex, and spotting.
Other women experience symptoms more severely in the form of stabbing pains in the abdomen with a high fever, as well as vomiting, and even fainting.
Severe PID infections can spread to the bloodstream and become life-threatening. And any woman experiencing severe PID symptoms should call their doctor immediately.
Doctors can usually diagnose PID after hearing the symptoms. However, they may also carry out a pelvic exam as well as request a urine sample and cervical culture for confirmation.
Once diagnosed, PID is treated with a combination of antibiotics for up to two weeks. Because PID can be caused by a wide range of harmful bacteria, doctors generally prescribe more than one antibiotic to ensure the infection is properly treated.
While symptoms usually begin to fade after a few days, PID patients should always finish the course of antibiotics to prevent a recurring infection. It is also recommended that patients avoid sex until treatment has finished and have tested negative for PID.
Male partners with whom infected women have been sexually active should also be treated. While many men may not experience any STI symptoms, they can be silent carriers.
While antibiotics kill the bad bacteria associated with PID, they can also harm the good bacteria. Harming the good bacteria in the gut during a course of antibiotics can lead to diarrhea as well as digestive issues. In addition, antibiotics can affect the good bacteria in the vagina, causing a pH imbalance that could result in a yeast infection.
To prevent either from happening, speak to your doctor about taking a probiotic in conjunction with antibiotics. The Flora Bloom Feminine Probiotic from Intimate Rose, for example, provides vaginal pH support with added cranberry and D-Mannose for prolonged pelvic health.
Probiotics and antibiotics work best together when the probiotic is taken approximately 1-2 hours after the antibiotic. It is also beneficial to continue taking a probiotic for at least one week after the course of antibiotics is finished.
To prevent PID infections, always use a condom with new sexual partners. If the relationship continues, ask them to get tested for sexually transmitted diseases before having unprotected sex.
Always wipe from front to back after using the toilet to prevent any harmful bacteria from entering the vagina.
Avoid douching and scented soaps, which can disrupt the natural pH balance of the vagina. Instead, wash the genital area with warm water and unscented soap.
Pelvic inflammatory disease is most common in women aged between 15 and 25 and is usually transmitted sexually. It is treated with a combination of antibiotics and most women make a full recovery.
It is also recommended to speak with your doctor about taking a probiotic in conjunction with the antibiotics to avoid any pH imbalances in the gut or the vagina.
The American College of Obstetricians & Gynecologists - Pelvic Inflammatory Disease - https://www.acog.org/womens-health/faqs/pelvic-inflammatory-disease
National Center For Biotechnology Information - Risk of Pelvic Inflammatory Disease Following Chlamydia trachomatis Infection: Analysis of Prospective Studies With a Multistate Model - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3727337/
US Department of Health & Human Services – Pelvic Inflammatory Disease - https://www.womenshealth.gov/a-z-topics/pelvic-inflammatory-disease
National Center For Biotechnology Information -Decreasing incidences of gonorrhea- and chlamydia-associated acute pelvic inflammatory disease. A 25-year study from an urban area of central Sweden - https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8885069/
National Center For Biotechnology Information - Risk of clinical pelvic inflammatory disease attributable to an intrauterine device - https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11273068/