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Scientific Study Shows that Consistent Condom Use Prevents Recurrence Of Pelvic Inflammatory Diseases

A study published in the August issue of the American Journal of Public Health suggests that consistent condom use prevents recurrence of Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID), chronic pelvic pain, and infertility. The study, led by Roberta B. Ness, MD, MPH of the University of Pittsburgh, followed 684 sexually active women ages 14-37 with PID for roughly 35 months. According to Dr. Ness, this "is the first prospective 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."1

Women who reported using condoms consistently during the study-at least six in every ten sexual encounters-were 50% less likely to develop a recurrence of PID than women who used condoms less frequently. Women who consistently used condoms were also found to be 60% less likely to become prematurely infertile and 30% less likely to have chronic pelvic pain.2

PID is an "infection of the uterus (womb), fallopian tubes (tubes that carry eggs from the ovaries to the uterus) and other reproductive organs," according to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.3 PID develops when bacteria travel from the vagina or cervix into a woman's reproductive organs.

Gonorrhea and Chlamydia, two common bacterial STDs, are the most frequent causes of PID. According to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) at the National Institutes of Health, "each year in the United States more than 1 million women experience an episode of acute PID, with the rate of infection highest among teenagers."4 According to the CDC, sexually active women under the age of 25 are more susceptible than older women because younger women's cervixes are still developing and are thus more vulnerable to infection.5

PID is responsible for roughly 100,000 women becoming infertile each year and increases a woman's chances of having an ectopic (tubal) pregnancy by six to ten times.6 An ectopic pregnancy occurs when an egg is fertilized by a sperm and develops in the fallopian tubes rather than in the uterus which can cause pain, internal bleeding, and in some cases fatality for the women and almost always for the fetus. There are about 70,000 ectopic pregnancies in the United States each year. NIAID reports that "in 1997 alone, an estimated $7 billion was spent on PID and its complications."7

It is important to note that bacterial STDs are curable, and if treated early, complications such as PID can be prevented. Typically, bacterial STDs such as gonorrhea and Chlamydia are treated with antibiotics.8 PID is also curable and if treated early (also with antibiotics) some complications such as infertility and ectopic pregnancy can be prevented.

This study shows that consistent condom use can prevent recurrences of PID as well as some of the related complications. According to Dr. Ness, "The finding is significant because PID tends to recur . . . and some 8 percent of women will have PID at some time over their reproductive lives."9

References

  1. "Condom Use Decreases Pelvic Inflammatory Disease Recurrence: Disease linked to chronic pelvic pain, tubal pregnancies and infertility," Press Release, University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health. July 28, 2004. Available online.
  2. "Condom Use and the Risk of Recurrent Pelvic Inflammatory Disease, Chronic Pelvic Pain, or Infertility Following an Episode of Pelvic Inflammatory Disease," Robert B. Ness, MD, MPH, et al. American Journal of Public Health, August 2004. Vol. 94, No. 8, pp. 1327-1329.
  3. CDC Pelvic Inflammatory Disease Fact Sheet, Centers for Disease Control, May 2004. Available online.
  4. Pelvic Inflammatory Disease, NIAID Fact Sheet, July 1998. Available online.
  5. Ibid.
  6. Ibid.
  7. Ibid.
  8. NIAID Gonorrhea Fact Sheet, May 2002; NIAID Chlamydia Fact Sheet, July 2004; American Social Health Association Facts & Answers About STDs.
  9. "Condom Use Decreases Pelvic Inflammatory Disease Recurrence: Disease linked to chronic pelvic pain, tubal pregnancies and infertility," Press Release, University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health. July 28, 2004. Available online.

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