What Exactly is Pelvic Inflammatory Disease?
You hear quite a bit in the news and media about safe sex and the complications of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). What doesn’t get as much press time is the topic of pelvic inflammatory disease, which is a common side-effect of many untreated STDs.
The problem is that while the symptoms of STDs may fade over time (or never appear at all, in the case of asymptomatic types), the effects of pelvic inflammatory disease can cause permanent damage to the fallopian tubes, which can lead to infertility.
The good news is that early identification is the key to early treatment, which will stop any damaging side effects in their tracks.
What is Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID)?
Chlamydia and gonorrhea are two of the most common causes of PID, although other infections can cause it as well. These infections cause the organs and/or tissues in the pelvic area to become inflamed. Although a little inflammation isn’t a bad thing, and is a sign that your immune system is doing its job, chronic inflammation can cause long-term damage and scarring – most specifically to the fallopian tubes, which are critical to the egg fertilization and conception process.
What Causes PID?
There are several factors that can put you at risk for developing PID:
- Having an STD that goes untreated
- Having multiple sex partners
- Having a prior history of PID
- Having sex with a partner who has multiple sexual partners
- Are sexually active and less than 25-years of age
- Are having sex without protection
This is why it is so important that you are 100% completely and totally honest with your fertility specialist during your initial fertility consultation. Depending on your sexual history, medical history and general health history, the doctor will know what to look for first.
If you feel uncomfortable speaking about your sexual history or a previous STDs in front of your partner, email or call your doctor. Let them in on these vital aspects of your reproductive health. For example, there are times where the information we get from a client leads us to test for STDs she never knew she had – some of which can progress without any noticeable symptoms.
Diagnosing and treating a latent STD, which can clear up PID, makes for a notably more affordable fertility treatment plan than IVF! Plus, it’s always healthier for a baby to grow, develop and be birthed in a healthy reproductive tract – one that is free of any infections.
Symptoms and Diagnosis of Pelvic Inflammatory Disease
Unlike STDs, PID can’t be tested for. Rather, the diagnosis is based on your medical history, physical exams, symptoms (if there are any) and the results of other tests.
Symptoms of PID can be very mild, if they show up at all. They typically consist of:
- Lower abdominal pain
- Unusual and/or smelly vaginal discharge
- Burning sensation when you urinate
- Pain, discomfort and/or bleeding during sexual intercourse
- Bleeding in between periods
If any of these symptoms sound familiar, you should schedule a visit with your OB/GYN or GP as soon as possible so you can be examined.
Is There a Treatment For PID?
Yes, once detected, PID and/or underlying infections is treated using antibiotics. However, the treatment cannot undo any damage that may have already been done as the result of scar tissue development. If scarring or fallopian tube blockages have occurred, and you want to have a baby, your doctor will probably schedule you for a surgical procedure to correct it, if possible.
Also, you should inform your sex partners so they know to be tested and treated for any latent STDs so they don’t pass them on to current and future partners.
Once you’ve had PID, you are more susceptible to developing it again in the future. Always use a latex condom with your sexual partners. If you are monogamous, but you suspect your partner is not, you should still insist that he wear a condom to protect yourself. Also, it’s a good idea to be tested for chlamydia every year if you are sexually active and under the age of 25 or having sex with more than one partner.
Do you suspect your inability to get pregnant is related to PID or a history of STDs? Schedule a consultation with the team at RRC and we’ll get to work creating a fertility road map that makes sense for you.
Image courtesy of marin at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
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RRC has over 200 years of combined experience. As a leading reproductive health, infertility, and in-vitro fertilization (or IVF) center based in Kansas City, we're proud to have the highest level of expertise available to our patients.