This Is How Pelvic Inflammatory Disease Can Impact Your Fertility

by Kelly Mullen-McWilliams

Many conditions can make it harder to get pregnant — and some are more easily treated than others. While there is no test for pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), a doctor can diagnose you based on medical history and a discussion of your symptoms. If you know or suspect that you have the condition, you're probably wondering, can you get pregnant if you have pelvic inflammatory disease? While every case is individual, pelvic inflammatory disease is a significant risk factor for infertility, but that doesn't mean you should give up hope.

Pelvic inflammatory disease is a bacterial infection caused, among other things, by untreated sexually transmitted diseases — like chlamydia and gonorrhea — according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). You can also develop the infection after childbirth or an abortion. You're at particular risk of developing PID if you're under 25 and sexually active — or if you douche, which you absolutely shouldn't do.

Symptoms of PID include lower abdominal pain, heavy vaginal discharge or bleeding between periods, painful intercourse, difficulty peeing, and fever, reported Mayo Clinic. Because symptoms range from mild to severe, it's possible for the condition to go unnoticed, and that's where trouble starts. With prompt treatment, you can clear up the infection with relative ease. Unfortunately, if PID lingers, the resulting scar tissue and adhesions can make it very difficult to get pregnant, especially if you've had PID more than once, reported Baby Center.

"Pelvic inflammatory disease can impact the fallopian tubes by blocking them with scar tissue, making it impossible to get pregnant without infertility treatment," explains Dr. Jennifer Hirshfeld-Cytron, Director of Fertility Preservation at Fertility Centers of Illinois, in an email to Romper.

Beyond fallopian tube damage, a single instance of severe pelvic inflammatory disease can also put you at risk for a dangerous ectopic pregnancy. One reason it's so important to visit your gynecologist annually is to screen for PID, and if you switch sexual partners often, you should consider seeing your doctor even more often than that.

But don't panic. "You can get pregnant with PID," explains Dr. Laurence Jacobs, Director of PCOS Center of Excellence, Fertility Centers of Illinois, in an interview with Romper. However, your chances depend on how much damage has been done to your fallopian tubes already. Jacobs advises seeing a fertility specialist to assess the amount of scar tissue you have with X-rays.

Even if scarring is very severe, pregnancy is by no means impossible — you just may wind up conceiving in a slightly less romantic way than you'd originally planned. "The best treatment option is to pursue IVF, which bypasses the fallopian tubes to achieve pregnancy," notes Hirshfeld-Cytron. (Baby Center reported that tubal repair is another possible option.) If you proceed with IVF, the good news is that success rates for women with PID are the same as for the general population. According to WebMD, IVF birth rates are 30 to 40 percent for women under 34 — but success rates will vary from clinic to clinic.

With PID, infertility isn't a foregone conclusion. The cause of the infection, the number of episodes, and the severity of the scarring all play a role, and only your doctor or a fertility specialist can speak to your individual chances of conceiving. In the worst case scenario, you might have to consider assisted reproductive technology (ART) in order to have your baby. But many women choose IVF and other treatments these days for a variety of conditions, and if that's the route you take to parenthood, you're by no means alone. Cafe Mom hosts a pelvic inflammatory disease support group, and you can find more information about infertility, as well as myriad resources and in-person support groups, at If you suspect you have pelvic inflammatory disease, don't delay — visit your doctor as soon as possible, and keep up with those annual exams.

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