Expert Answers Factual Answers to Your Sexual Health Questions

Anonymous on September 29, 2011

Is cunnilingus the cause of my wife’s PID diagnosis?

Can my wife acquire pelvic inflammation through saliva during cunnilingus? On two occasions, she had symptoms of pain and burning feeling in her fallopian tubes and the doctor diagnosed PID for which she took antibiotics. Is cunnilingus the cause?

answered by
Lisa Oldson, MD on September 29, 2011

Thank you for your important question about whether certain sexual activities can cause a health problem like pelvic inflammatory disease (PID).

First, it would be unusual for a woman to develop PID from receiving oral sex...but it is possible. PID can develop when certain sexually transmitted bacteria, like chlamydia or gonorrhea, are passed to a woman’s vagina through sexual activity. The bacteria move upward from the vagina through the cervix (the opening to the uterus) into her reproductive organs. Chlamydia and gonorrhea bacteria could be passed in saliva during oral sex...but that’s rare. Instead, chlamydia and gonorrhea are much more likely to be passed through semen during intercourse.

If your wife has PID, then you most likely have an infection also. If you haven’t already, I suggest that both of you get tested for a full array of common STDs, including chlamydia and gonorrhea, as well as herpes 1 and 2, hepatitis B and C, HIV and syphilis. Most of these tests can be done through your doctor or online testing..but you’ll need to visit a doctor to be tested for oral chlamydia and gonorrhea. 

Once you know each other’s STD status, you can both get treated, if necessary...and avoid passing an infection back and forth. One thing is for sure: treatment is important to avoid potential long-term complications from an untreated STD. 

For example, untreated chlamydia in women can cause not only PID, but also pelvic pain and infertility down the road. In men, an untreated chlamydia infection can (albeit rarely) lead to pain and inflammation of the penis, prostate and testicles, and potentially cause sterility.

The good news is that STDs like chlamydia and gonorrhea are effectively treated and cured with antibiotics. That said, chlamydia or gonorrhea can recur...so you and your wife should be treated at the same time to reduce the chances of re-infecting each other, and you might consider retesting in three months after being treated. You can read more about chlamydia and gonorhea risks, complications and treatment in our Expert Guide to Chlamydia and our Expert Guide to Gonorrhea

Once you’re both cleared of any STDs you may have, and your wife has completed her PID treatment, too, you should be safe to resume the sexual activities you enjoy. But I suggest that you remain vigilant about each other’s symptoms and continue to monitor your health.

Good luck to both of you. 

Related info:

Lisa Oldson, MD

Dr. Oldson is Medical Director of the Analyte Physicians Group. She is on staff at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, as well as Clinical Instructor at the Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University. Her areas of expertise include STDs (with a particular clinical emphasis on herpes), women's health, preventive medicine, diabetes, obesity and weight management, and mood and anxiety disorders. Dr. Oldson was educated at Rush Medical College and completed her residency at Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke's Medical Center in Chicago, IL.

Related Q&A's

How serious is chlamydia? Can I catch chlamydia through foreplay? Is there a cure?
Is a burning sensation with urination a symptom of chlamydia infection? What about unusual discharge?
How do you know if you have chlamydia? Are chlamydia and AIDS related?