Updated August 22, 2011
Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.
Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) symptoms vary from case to case. With acute PID, symptoms may be severe and intense, possibly leading to an emergency room trip and hospitalization. With chronic PID, symptoms may be barely noticeable or vague, making diagnosis difficult. And with silent PID, you may not experience any signs or symptoms, or you may discover you have PID only after trying to conceive unsuccessfully. The symptoms of PID may also be confused for other diseases, like endometriosis or appendicitis.
Keep this in mind as you read through the list of possible symptoms of pelvic inflammatory disease. Having mild or no symptoms does not rule out PID, so be sure to speak to your doctor if you're concerned. If you're experiencing severe symptoms, including severe pain in your lower abdomen, signs of shock (like feeling faint), vomiting, and fever over 101 F, you should go to the emergency room. Untreated PID can be deadly.
This is the most common symptom of pelvic inflammatory disease. The pain may be a dull pressure or a more intense cramping pain. In chronic PID, the pain may be mild but present all the time. The cramping during your menstrual cycle may be more intense, enough that it interferes with your regular life. In acute PID, the pain may be so intense that you cannot stand up. If you experience severe pain, contact your doctor immediately or go to the emergency room.
Pain during intercourse is not normal. Some women may feel embarrassed to mention pain during intercourse, worrying that it's psychological and not physical. However, pelvic pain during sex is a common symptom of PID. You should tell your doctor so you can get treatment as soon as possible.
Mild, lower back pain around the time of your period can be normal, but if you experience the pain throughout your cycle, or the pain is especially intense during menstruation, you should mention this to your doctor. It's also possible to experience back pain around the kidneys or liver, which you should let your doctor know about right away, especially if you have other symptoms.
Bleeding that is heavier than normal or spotting between cycles can be a symptom of PID. If you are bleeding so heavily that you need to change your menstrual pad every hour for more than two or three hours, call your doctor immediately.
Vaginal discharge that is especially heavy, has an unpleasant or fishy odor, or unusual color may indicate an infection, and possibly pelvic inflammatory disease. The odor may be worse after sexual intercourse. Because an untreated vaginal infection can later lead to PID, it's important you see your doctor and get treated as soon as possible.
PID may lead to unusual discharge from the uretha. Frequent urination, burning during urination, and difficult urinating can be symptoms of PID. If you experience repeated urinary tract infections, PID or bacteria associated with PID may be a possible cause.
Pelvic inflammatory disease may lead to flu-like symptoms, including fatigue, chills, low grade or high fever, weakness, swollen lymph nodes, and a general feeling of unease.
You may experience a lack of appetite, as well as vomiting or diarrhea. If vomiting is especially severe or persistent, you should contact your doctor immediately.
About 10 to 15% of women with PID become infertile. Even if you've already been treated for pelvic inflammatory disease, or you've received treatment for a sexually transmitted disease, it's still possible to experience infertility. Antibiotic treatment only targets the infection. It cannot undo the damage to your fallopian tubes.
Some women will only discover they have PID after testing for infertility.
It is not uncommon for PID to be silent, meaning there are no outward signs or symptoms. You may only discover you have PID after being diagnosed with infertility, as PID is a common cause of blocked fallopian tubes. Chlamydia is a sexually transmitted disease that can lead to PID, and while about 1 million women are diagnosed with it each year, up to half say they never experienced any symptoms.
If you suspect you may have contracted a sexually transmitted disease, or your partner has been diagnosed with one, speak to your doctor even if you have not experienced symptoms yourself.
If you experience symptoms of PID, you should speak to your doctor and get an evaluation. The longer PID goes untreated, the more likely you are to experience damage to your reproductive organs.
If you have been trying to conceive for more than a year, even if you have no other symptoms, you should speak to your doctor.
If you experience acute PID symptoms, like high fever, vomiting, fainting, or severe pain, you should call your doctor immediately or go to the nearest emergency room. PID is a serious and potentially deadly disease. Do not ignore it.
Chronic Pelvic Pain. Mayo Staff. Accessed online July 26, 2011. http://www.mayoclinic.com/print/chronic-pelvic-pain/DS00571/DSECTION=all&METHOD=print
Conceiving After Tubal Surgery: Fact Sheet. American Association of Reproductive Medicine. Accessed November 6, 2008. http://asrm.org/uploadedFiles/ASRM_Content/Resources/Patient_Resources/Fact_Sheets_and_Info_Booklets/ConceivingAfterTubalSurgery.pdf
Hydrosalpinx: Fact Sheet. American Association of Reproductive Medicine. Accessed November 6, 2008. http://asrm.org/uploadedFiles/ASRM_Content/Resources/Patient_Resources/Fact_Sheets_and_Info_Booklets/hydrosa%281%29.pdf
Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) - CDC Fact Sheet. Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Accessed online July 26, 2011. http://www.cdc.gov/std/pid/stdfact-pid.htm
Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). Mayo Clinic. Accessed online July 26, 2011. http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/pelvic-inflammatory-disease/DS00402/DSECTION=causes
Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) . Planned Parenthood. Accessed online July 26, 2011. http://www.plannedparenthood.org/health-topics/stds-hiv-safer-sex/pelvic-inflammatory-disease-pid-4278.htm
The Boston Women's Health Book Collective. (2005). Our Bodies, Ourselves: A New Edition for a New Era. United States of America: Touchstone.
©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.