19 Apr Pelvic Inflammatory Disease and Your Fertility
Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is an insidious infection, causing inflammation, swelling and potential damage to the uterus, fallopian tubes and other reproductive organs. It results from pelvic bacterial infections, most often the result of chlamydia or gonorrhea.
Because certain STDs and bacterial infections are asymptomatic, and can eventually resolve on their own via a healthy immune system, the infection(s) can leave women at risk for scarring or blockages that negatively impact future fertility.
How Can I Tell if I Have (or Had) Pelvic Inflammatory Disease?
One of the best things you can do to determine whether or not you have – or have had – PID is to be completely honest with your OB/GYN about your sexual history. It’s imperative that s/he know if you’ve ever had unprotected sex, or if you’re having sex with multiple partners, or if you’ve ever had an STD.
This information, combined with your desire to get pregnant in the future, arms your physician with the information required to determine the next steps. Even disclosing information like how you used to have regular periods but now you don’t, or that you’ve had on-again/off-again pain or discomfort in the pelvis/lower abdomen can signal scarring, or inflammation that might indicate a current or historical episode with PID.
Symptoms of PID
Symptoms of PID include:
- Pelvic/lower abdominal pain or discomfort
- Painful intercourse or penetration
- Abnormal vaginal discharge
Anytime you experience one or more of these symptoms, you should schedule an OB/GYN examination and fully disclose your concerns.
Why Does PID Affect Fertility?
Scarring and blockages in the fallopian tubes are the most common fertility complication associated with PID. When that happens, the egg may not be able to get through the tube, the sperm may not be able to reach the egg, and women who’ve had PID also have a higher risk of experiencing an ectopic pregnancy. Any scarring or damage to the uterine wall may also impact a fertilized egg’s ability to implant and develop.
Treating Pelvic Inflammatory Disease
If you catch PID early, your doctor will start you on antibiotics to treat the infection, and she’ll also want to take a bacterial culture. Once those results come in, your antibiotic regimen may be switched to better target the offending bacteria. If you catch it early, odds are you won’t experience scarring or permanent damage.
Once pelvic inflammatory disease has cleared on its own, there is no way to “go back” to treat it. Instead, any suspicions or signs that PID may have been an issue – perhaps your inability to get pregnant within six- to 12-months – will trigger your doctor to perform certain tests, looking for any visible blockages.
In many cases, laparoscopic surgery is used to remove lesions, scarring or blockages. For many women, surgery is successful and they are able to get pregnant at home. In other cases, scarring or fallopian tube damage may be too severe, or surgery may not be enough. In these cases, fertility treatments are the best bet for getting pregnant.
Visit Your OB/GYN Every Year (and Practice Safe Sex!)
We can’t emphasize enough how important it is that women visit their OB/GYN each year.
Many of the issues that plague the female reproductive tract are elusive. PID is one of them, but other issues that contribute to female infertility factors require the regular support from an attentive OB/GYN (and your honesty and forthrightness!) as well, including endometriosis, fibroids and Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS).
As with any disease or syndrome, early detection and treatment is the best bet for avoiding serious, long-term damage.
If you feel you are a high-risk candidate for having had PID, schedule an appointment with your OB/GYN. Know you’ve had PID in the past and are having a hard time getting pregnant? Schedule a consult with the Fertility Center of Dallas and we’ll identify the cause so we can create a personalized fertility treatment plan.