A pelvic infection can affect any part of the upper reproductive system, including your uterus, ovaries and fallopian tubes. Although the symptoms are usually mild, it is important to seek treatment to avoid any complications. Untreated pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) could affect your fertility. You should see a doctor if you are experiencing symptoms that could be caused by an infection.
What Causes Pelvic Infections?
Pelvic infections are usually caused by bacteria.
- The bacteria can enter your body through the vagina and spread up into the higher reproductive system.
- Sometimes the bacteria are introduced to the body as a sexually transmitted infection, but this isn’t always the case.
- In some cases, the normal, healthy bacteria that are harmless when they are in the vagina can cause problems when they reach other parts of your body.
- When the bacteria spread through your body, they can cause inflammation by triggering the immune system. Pelvic infections are therefore also known as pelvic inflammatory disease. It is the inflammation that causes many of the symptoms you experience.
Symptoms of Pelvic Infections
Pelvic infections are very common, but the symptoms can be so mild that many women aren’t aware of them. Common symptoms of pelvic inflammatory disease include:
- Pelvic pain
- Discomfort during sex
- Pain when you urinate
- Heavy or painful periods
- Bleeding between periods or after sex
- Unusual discharge from your vagina
Sometimes an infection of the reproductive system can cause more serious symptoms. Pelvic inflammatory disease can cause a high fever, severe abdominal pain or nausea and vomiting.
If you notice symptoms that could be caused by a pelvic infection, you should see your gynaecologist. It is important to seek treatment even if the symptoms are mild, but if you are in severe pain you should go to the nearest A&E department.
Diagnosing a Pelvic Infection
It is usually possible to diagnose a pelvic infection based on:
- Your symptoms.
- A gynaecological exam. The doctor will check for signs of inflammation and tenderness during the internal examination.
- Swabs may be taken from your vagina and cervix. The samples can be tested in the lab to confirm the presence of an infection.
Treatment for Pelvic Infections
Most pelvic infections can be treated with medication.
- You will usually need to take antibiotic tablets for a couple of weeks
- You may be given an injection of antibiotics too. The medication will eliminate the infection.
Getting treatment for pelvic inflammatory disease can help to prevent complications. An untreated pelvic infection could lead to scarring and narrowing of the fallopian tubes, which could affect your fertility and increase the chances of ectopic pregnancy by making it difficult for eggs to reach your womb. However, as long as you receive the right treatment, your fertility should be unaffected.
You can reduce the chances of another infection by:
- using a condom to prevent STIs
- ensuring that you are checked for infections before any invasive gynaecological procedures, such as having an IUCD inserted. It is important to treat any infections first to avoid spreading them into the upper reproductive system.
If you think that you might have a pelvic infection, you can make an appointment with a leading gynaecologist at the Venus Women's Clinic in London. Miss Arafa is an experienced doctor who will provide the highest quality care. You can request an appointment by phone or using the simple online form. Same day appointments can be arranged if your symptoms require urgent care.