There are many factors and causes of infertility — PCOS, endometriosis, low sperm count, anovulation, and just plain old bad luck, apparently. But what about pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)? Does pelvic inflammatory disease cause infertility? If you’ve been trying to conceive (TTC) for a while now and you can’t seem to figure out why it just isn’t working, it may be time to head back to the gynecologist for an exam sooner rather than later, especially if you’ve never been tested for PID.
Annoyingly, PID doesn’t really have any symptoms at first, according to the Mayo Clinic. So you may not even realize you have it until you’re having trouble TTC. If it is symptomatic, you’ll experience issues like painful urination, bleeding between periods, smelly discharge that’s heavier than normal, and pain during or after sex. If you’ve had unprotected sex in the past, and you and your partner have never been tested for STDs, you may possibly have PID as it can occur when you don’t get gonorrhea and chlamydia taken care of and they just linger in your lady parts. Rough, huh? This is why using protection and getting annual gynecological exams and STD testing are oh so important.
Hopefully your doctor can catch these nasty STDs sooner rather than later if you regularly see them — especially if you have unprotected sex. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) noted that symptoms of gonorrhea and chlamydia for women include a burning sensation while peeing, increased vaginal discharge, and vaginal bleeding between periods, much like PID.
You can also get PID "any time the normal barrier created by the cervix is disturbed," the Mayo Clinic warned. This includes if you've had a miscarriage, an abortion, or even after you've given birth.
So if you do have PID, and you don’t even know it, could that potentially be what is making it difficult to conceive? Dr. Sherry Ross, OB-GYN and women’s health expert at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California, says yes. PID can cause infertility because it scars your fallopian tubes and causes damage to your ovaries — and the results are irreversible. Other reproductive issues PID can cause include ectopic pregnancies and tubo-ovarian abscesses, which is where a collection of pus begins in your uterine tube and ovaries. And if left untreated, the Mayo Clinic noted, “You could develop a life-threatening infection.” This is yet another reason why Ross recommends women 25 years old and younger be screened yearly for gonorrhea and STDs.
How does your doctor screen for PID? It’s not that big of a deal, as they just feel around your cervix for any swelling or abnormalities, Ross says. And they test for STDs with a swab test — another not so big deal. “If you do get PID, it’s completely treatable with antibiotics, as long as you catch it early before there’s permanent damage,” Ross says.
If you think you may have even the slightest possibility of having PID, even if you're not TTC, it's really important to get it checked out — especially if you're planning on having kids in the future. You definitely don't want any irreversible damage happening in your reproductive system. And, at the risk of sounding like your sex-ed teacher in school, always use a condom when having sex with multiple partners and get checked out by your gynecologist at least once a year for your wellness exam, and/or when you have sex with a new partner for the first time. STDs and PID are no joke, and all it takes is one really bad infection to cause irreversible damage to your fallopian tubes, rendering you infertile. Please be safe, get your checkups, and remember to have fun.
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