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Fertility Facts: Pelvic Inflammatory Disease

Fertility Fact:  Of the 750,000 women who experience pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) each year in the United States, it is estimated that 10-15% will have trouble conceiving.

However, with some help, most women with a history of pelvic inflammatory disease can go on to have a healthy pregnancy and delivery.

What is Pelvic Inflammatory Disease?

Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID)
Fallopian Tubes can become enlarged with Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID).

Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) is an infection of the uterus, fallopian tubes, and other reproductive organs. The infections can cause symptoms such as lower abdominal pain, fever, vaginal discharge, painful intercourse or urination. However, since many of these symptoms are vague and can be contributed to other causes, PID often goes undiagnosed.

Pelvic inflammatory disease occurs in women when bacteria move upward to her reproductive organs from her vagina or cervix. While many different types of bacteria can cause PID, most often it is associated with bacterial sexually transmitted diseases – primarily chlamydia and gonorrhea.

Complications with Pelvic Inflammatory Disease

PID can cause permanent damage to the female reproductive organs and scarring in the fallopian tubes. Scarring in the fallopian tubes can interfere with the egg traveling to the uterus. This can result in the sperm not being able to reach the egg or the egg fertilizing in the tube causing an ectopic pregnancy. As a result of the damage and complications, the risk of infertility continues to increase with the number of episodes. According to Dr. Joseph Doyle, “After one episode of PID, infertility from blocked fallopian tubes will occur in up to 12% of women.  After two episodes, it will affect more than one third of women.  With three episodes, up to 75% of women will have blocked fallopian tubes.”

Diagnosing and Treating Pelvic Inflammatory Disease

Since the symptoms for PID are often mild and there is no test for PID, a diagnosis for PID is typically based on the clinical findings. Your health care provider may also need to identify the type of organism causing the PID and order a test for chlamydia and/or gonorrhea. An ultrasound might also be used to see if the fallopian tubes show evidence of an infection.

PID is treated with antibiotics; however, the antibiotics will not reverse any damage already occurred, making it important for women to seek care immediately if she is experiencing any symptoms. A woman’s sexual partner(s) should also be treated if a sexually transmitted disease is the cause of infection.

Becoming Pregnant after Pelvic Inflammatory Disease

For women that have had PID and have had damage to their reproductive organs, they will likely have to consult with a fertility specialist to maintain a healthy pregnancy. “The risk of an ectopic pregnancy is increase 6-7 times as a result of pelvic infection,” explains Dr. Doyle.  To address this risk and the inability to conceive due to scarring in their fallopian tubes, in vitro fertilizaition (IVF) is often the advised therapy to help achieve pregnancy because with IVF the tubes are bypassed completely.

Annual gynecological exams with STD testing and practicing safe sex is advised to help prevent pelvic inflammatory disease and limit the damage that can be caused by the disease.

If you have had PID and need to consult with a physician in order to achieve pregnancy, please call 1-877-971-7755 or click here to request an appointment.

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    July 7, 2013 - 6:05 am
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    Most of the time, vaginal discharge is perfectly normal. The amount can vary, as can odor and hue (its color can range from clear to a milky white-ish), depending on the time in your menstrual cycle. For example, there will be more discharge if you are ovulating, breastfeeding, or are sexually aroused. The smell may be different if you are pregnant or you haven’t been diligent about your personal hygiene.’`*`

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      February 9, 2014 - 8:05 pm
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      I’ve been feeling chronic pain at the left side of tummy, the is going on for quite some years and I visited the doctor and do my test and all of them is negative. so doc what have could cause this severe pain?

      • Shady Grove Fertility

        February 10, 2014 - 1:21 pm
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        Hi Georgia – What type of physician have you seen? And have you been trying to conceive? It would be important to know what may be causing the pain prior to having any infertility treatment.
        I would recommend calling our New Patient Center at 877-971-7755 or seek a referral to a specialist from your primary care provider.

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    February 24, 2014 - 3:56 am
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  5. Chelsea

    April 24, 2014 - 3:05 pm
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    I have gone to the doctor 6 times, urgent care twice, and the ER one for all of the PID symptoms and not one of them put two and two together. I was diagnosed with chlamydia last Monday which evidently I contracted in the beginning of January. I have been having PID symptoms some the middle of January. I keep reading if caught early I have a better chance of not having too much damage and not being infertile or having chronic pain, but no one says what “early” is! What is early? I am really worried that I can have major problems and very frustrated that this was not diagnosed earlier on. Please help!

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