Pelvic Inflammatory Disease | Causes & Risk Factors

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How does a woman get PID?

There are several ways women can get PID. The most common way is by having sex with a person who has gonorrhea or chlamydia. These diseases are carried in the semen and other body fluids of infected people. During sexual contact, the germs spread to the woman's cervix. The germs can also infect the glands at the opening of the vagina, the urethra (passageway for urine) or the anus.

Sometimes women get PID without being exposed to gonorrhea or chlamydia. In these cases, doctors aren't sure why the bacteria in the vagina spread into the uterus and fallopian tubes, causing PID.

Rarely, PID can also occur if bacteria infect your internal organs as a result of giving birth, or having a miscarriage, an abortion or a procedure to take a sample from the inside of the womb for laboratory testing. Sometimes PID can occur after the cervix is treated because of an abnormal Pap smear or after the insertion of an intrauterine device (IUD). However, this is not common.

What are the risk factors for PID?

The same things that put you at risk for STIs also put you at risk for PID. Risk factors for PID include:

  • Being a sexually active woman younger than 25 years of age.
  • Having multiple sexual partners.
  • Having unsafe sexual habits.
  • Douching regularly (which can flush the bacteria up into your genital tract).

Written by familydoctor.org editorial staff

Reviewed/Updated: 04/14
Created: 09/00

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