Objective: We used data from a large multicenter case-control study of tubal infertility to analyze further the relationship among demographic variables, behavioral measures, history of previous sexually transmitted diseases, and past contraceptive practices, for women with and without a history of pelvic inflammatory disease.
Study design: We identified 283 white women with tubal infertility who requested care at seven participating institutions. Of these women, 238 (84%) did not have a history of pelvic inflammatory disease ("atypical pelvic inflammatory disease") whereas 45 reported a history of pelvic inflammatory disease ("overt pelvic inflammatory disease"). We compared these groups with 1629 white women without a history of either infertility or pelvic inflammatory disease who were delivered of their first live-born child at the same institutions as the infertile cases.
Results: Women with atypical pelvic inflammatory disease were demographically more like fertile control subjects and had behavioral characteristics midway between those of the overt pelvic inflammatory disease group and the fertile group. Both oral contraceptive and diaphragm use protected against tubal infertility for women with either atypical or overt pelvic inflammatory disease. Atypical pelvic inflammatory disease was related to a history of Trichomonas infection but not to a reported history of gonorrhea, genital herpes, or other vaginitis.
Conclusion: Atypical pelvic inflammatory disease is probably more common than its symptomatic counterpart. Whereas this condition is associated with some characteristics of a sexually transmitted infection, clinical predictors remain elusive.