What is cervicitis?

Cervicitis is an inflammatory condition of the neck of the womb (the cervix). The inflammation can be infectious (caused by bacteria or viruses) or non-infectious (caused by physical or chemical irritation, injury to the cervix or allergies). Sexually transmitted infections are the most common cause of cervicitis. Some women don't experience any symptoms of cervicitis at all. Others may experience symptoms that occur suddenly and include vaginal discharge, lower belly pain or pain and bleeding during sex. Antibiotics or anti-viral medications may be needed to treat infectious cervicitis, and most people recover fully.


There are different causes for cervicitis: injury (chemical or physical), allergies or infection. The most common cause is a sexually transmitted infection with bacteria or a virus. These bacteria and viruses include chlamydia, gonorrhea, herpes, mycoplasma or trichomoniasis. Having sexual intercourse without a condom increases the risk of getting a sexually transmitted infection. Things that increase the risk of non-infectious cervicitis include using pessaries, using a diaphragm or cervical cap, using vaginal douches or having a latex allergy (among many other possible causes).


Typical symptoms include grayish or yellowish vaginal discharge, vaginal bleeding (either after intercourse or between periods), pain during sex, problems with urination (pain when urinating or increased frequency of urination) and, less commonly, abdominal pain and fever. Many women with cervicitis may not have any symptoms at all.


The diagnosis is made by a physician based on the symptoms and gynecological examination, during which a vaginal swab is taken to determine the presence of specific bacteria or viruses. A gynecological examination may also help to diagnose any injuries to the cervix.


Non-infectious cervicitis usually does not require any specific treatment. Pain relieving medications may be helpful. Depending on the cause, infectious cervicitis is treated with antibiotics or antiviral medication. If the cause is sexually transmitted, it is necessary to inform and treat sexual partners too.


Using condoms during sexual intercourse can help prevent bacterial and viral infections of the cervix. Avoiding causes of non-infectious cervicitis (such as things which cause allergies) may help prevent some episodes of cervicitis.