A pelvic infection can be characterized by symptoms including pelvic pain, especially during intercourse, bad-smelling vaginal discharge, bleeding between periods and fever. It is often caused by bacteria traveling up the vagina into the Fallopian tubes, according to MyHealth.Alberta.ca, the government website for Alberta Health Services.
Once discovered, pelvic infections should be treated immediately to prevent the infection from spreading to other parts of a patient's body or to a partner, and to prevent the scarring of the Fallopian tubes, according to Alberta Health Services. Scarred Fallopian tubes increase the risk of ectopic pregnancy and can cause infertility.
Women who are sexually active, particularly those with more than one sexual partner, have an increased risk of contracting pelvic infections. Risk of infection is also higher for patients who have had an intrauterine device inserted within three months, have a previous history of pelvic inflammatory disease, or who have sexually transmitted infections, cancer or diabetes. Risks are also high for those who receive chemotherapy, are HIV-positive or use steroids.
Closely related to pelvic infections is pelvic inflammatory disease, which is an infection of the female reproductive organs, explains WebMD. Known as PID, it can cause irreversible damage to the uterus, ovaries, Fallopian tubes or other parts of the reproductive system, and is the primary preventable cause of infertility in women.
Treatment of PID can include the use of antibiotics or surgery, notes WebMD. Mild cases of PID usually involve taking one or more medications orally. If the treatment is not effective, hospitalization may be required. PID that forms an abscess usually requires surgery to remove it and to prevent the spreading of infection.