Diagnosis

Doctors diagnose pelvic inflammatory disease based on signs and symptoms, a pelvic exam, an analysis of vaginal discharge and cervical cultures, or urine tests.

During the pelvic exam, your doctor will first check your pelvic region for signs and symptoms of PID. Your doctor might then use cotton swabs to take samples from your vagina and cervix. The samples will be analyzed at a lab to determine the organism that's causing the infection.

To confirm the diagnosis or to determine how widespread the infection is, your doctor might recommend other tests, such as:

  • Blood and urine tests. These tests will measure your white blood cell count, which might indicate an infection, and markers that suggest inflammation. Your doctor also might recommend tests for HIV and sexually transmitted infections, which are sometimes associated with PID.
  • Ultrasound. This test uses sound waves to create images of your reproductive organs.
  • Laparoscopy. During this procedure, your doctor inserts a thin, lighted instrument through a small incision in your abdomen to view your pelvic organs.

Treatment

Treatments for pelvic inflammatory disease include:

  • Antibiotics. Your doctor will prescribe a combination of antibiotics to start immediately. After receiving your lab test results, your doctor might adjust your prescription to better match what's causing the infection. You will likely follow up with your doctor after three days to make sure the treatment is working.

    Be sure to take all of your medication, even if you start to feel better after a few days. Antibiotic treatment can help prevent serious complications but can't reverse any damage.

  • Treatment for your partner. To prevent reinfection with an STI, your sexual partner or partners should be examined and treated. Infected partners might not have any noticeable symptoms.
  • Temporary abstinence. Avoid sexual intercourse until treatment is completed and tests indicate that the infection has cleared in all partners.

Most women with pelvic inflammatory disease just need outpatient treatment. However, if you're seriously ill, pregnant or haven't responded to oral medications, you might need hospitalization. You might receive intravenous antibiotics, followed by antibiotics you take by mouth.

Surgery is rarely necessary. However, if an abscess ruptures or threatens to rupture, your doctor might drain it. You also might need surgery if you don't respond to antibiotic treatment or have a questionable diagnosis, such as when one or more of the signs or symptoms of PID are absent.

Coping and support

Many women are diagnosed with PID along with a sexually transmitted infection. Finding out that you have an STI can be traumatic. Take steps immediately to get treated and to prevent reinfection.

If you've experienced more than one episode of pelvic inflammatory disease, you're at greater risk of infertility. If you've been trying to become pregnant without success, make an appointment with your doctor for an infertility evaluation.

Your doctor or a reproductive health specialist might do tests to determine whether or not your history of pelvic inflammatory disease is causing the problem.

Preparing for your appointment

If you have signs or symptoms of pelvic inflammatory disease, make an appointment to see your doctor or other health care provider.

Here's some information on what you can do to get ready and what to expect from your doctor.

What you can do

  • Be aware of any pre-appointment restrictions. At the time you make the appointment, ask if there's anything you need to do in advance.
  • Write down any symptoms you're experiencing, including any that might seem unrelated to the reason for which you scheduled the appointment.
  • Make a list of all medications, vitamins or supplements that you're taking.
  • Write down questions to ask your doctor.

Some basic questions to ask include:

  • What kinds of tests do I need?
  • Is this a sexually transmitted infection?
  • Should my partner be tested or treated?
  • Do I need to stop having sex during treatment? How long should I wait?
  • How can I prevent future episodes of pelvic inflammatory disease?
  • Will this affect my ability to become pregnant?
  • Is there a generic alternative to the medicine you're prescribing me?
  • Can I be treated at home? Or will I need to go to a hospital?
  • Do you have any printed materials that I can take with me? What websites do you recommend?
  • Do I need to come back for a follow-up visit?

What to expect from your doctor

Your doctor is likely to ask you a number of questions, such as:

  • Do you have a new sexual partner or multiple partners?
  • Do you always use condoms?
  • When did you first begin experiencing symptoms?
  • What are your symptoms?
  • Are you experiencing any pelvic pain?
  • How severe are your symptoms?