Women wishing to decrease their risk of contracting a common and serious infection of the upper genital tract called pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) should make sure their sexual partners use condoms and use them consistently, according to a study from the University of Pittsburgh's Graduate School of Public Health (GSPH).
Appearing in the American Journal of Public Health, the report is the first study to clearly show an association between regular condom use and a reduced risk not only for recurrent PID, but also for related complications such as chronic pelvic pain and infertility, said Roberta Ness at GSPH. In the United States, more than a million women will have an episode of acute PID each year, with the rate highest among teenagers.
Consistent condom users were half as likely to have an episode of recurrent PID as those women whose partners never used condoms, the study found. Significantly, women who reported regular use of condoms were 60 percent less likely to become infertile. The rate of reported condom use appeared to have no effect on future chronic pelvic pain.
"Bacteria that cause cervical infection can travel into the upper genital tract and trigger PID," said Dr. Ness. "Many different organisms can cause the disorder, but most cases of PID are associated with sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) such as gonorrhea or chlamydia."
While the association between condom use and a decreased risk of acquiring HIV and other viral STDs is well known, fewer data exists on the relationships among condom use, bacterial STDs and PID, explained Dr. Ness.
"The finding is significant because PID tends to recur," she said, adding that some 8 percent of women will have PID at some time over their reproductive lives, increasing the chances for future chronic pain and infertility.