Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)

What is it?          

Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is an infection of the female upper genital tract, including the womb, fallopian tubes and ovaries. PID is a common condition, although it's not clear how many women are affected in the UK. It mostly affects sexually active women aged 15 to 24.

How do I get it?               

Most cases of PID are caused by a bacterial infection that's spread from the vagina or the cervix to the reproductive organs higher up. Many different types of bacteria can cause PID. In about 1 in 4 cases, it's caused by a sexually transmitted infection (STI) such as chlamydia or gonorrhoea. Another type of STI, called mycoplasma genitalium, is thought to be increasingly responsible for cases of PID. In many other cases, it's caused by bacteria that normally live in the vagina.

Signs and Symptoms     

PID often doesn't cause any obvious symptoms. 

Most women have mild symptoms that may include 1 or more of the following:

  • pain around the pelvis or lower abdomen (tummy) 
  • discomfort or pain during sex that's felt deep inside the pelvis 
  • pain during urination 
  • bleeding between periods and after sex 
  • heavy periods
  • painful periods  
  • unusual vaginal discharge, especially if it's yellow or green


There's no simple test to diagnose PID. Diagnosis is based on your symptoms and the finding of tenderness on a vaginal (internal) examination. Swabs will be taken from your vagina and cervix (neck of the womb), but negative swabs don't rule out PID.


If diagnosed at an early stage, PID can be treated with a course of antibiotics, which usually lasts for 14 days. You'll be given a mixture of antibiotics to cover the most likely infections, and often an injection as well as tablets. It's important to complete the whole course and avoid having sexual intercourse during this time to help ensure the infection clears. Your recent sexual partners also need to be tested and treated to stop the infection recurring or being spread to others.

Further Guidance: Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)