HealthLinkBC File Number: 
Sexually Transmitted Infections Series
Last Updated: 
October 2013

What is cervicitis?

Cervicitis is an inflammation of the cervix, which is the lower narrow part of the womb that joins with the vagina. Cervicitis is common and affects many women at some point during their adult lives.

What causes cervicitis?

Cervicitis is most commonly caused by germs transmitted through sex like gonorrhea, chlamydia, or herpes. Cervicitis can also be caused by other bacteria, or from reactions to latex, douches or vaginal creams.

To find out if you have cervicitis, you must be examined by a health care provider and have lab tests done.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms of cervicitis can include:

  • an increase in fluid from the vagina;
  • a burning feeling while urinating;
  • the need to urinate more often;
  • bleeding or blood spotting from the vagina between periods; or
  • pain during sexual intercourse.

It is also possible to have cervicitis and not have any symptoms.

Are there any complications?

If cervicitis is not treated, the infection can spread and damage organs in the body, especially the reproductive organs. With untreated cervicitis, a woman may have ongoing pelvic pain and have difficulty getting pregnant.

Pregnant women can pass the infection to their baby's eyes during childbirth. Some types of infection can cause blindness if the baby is not treated.

What is the treatment?

Since most cervicitis is caused by bacteria spread during intercourse, it is almost always treated with antibiotic medications. Sexual partner(s) are also treated, regardless of their test results. Other treatments may be offered by your health care provider if another cause is identified.

If you are being treated for cervicitis, take the medication as instructed, and do not have sex until you and your sexual partner(s) have finished all the medication.

Will my birth control pills work if I am taking antibiotics?

Birth control pills may not work as well when you are taking certain antibiotics. If you are being treated with antibiotics, keep taking your birth control pills and use a second form of birth control, such as a condom, until your next period after completing the antibiotics.

How can I reduce my chance of getting a sexually transmitted infection (STI)?

Practice safe sex by using a condom

When used as directed, male and female condoms help prevent the spread of many STIs, including HIV, during vaginal, anal and oral sex. Condoms are less effective at protecting against STIs transmitted by skin-to-skin contact, such as herpes simplex, genital warts (human papillomavirus or HPV), and syphilis.

Important things to remember when using condoms:

  • Check the condom package for damage and to ensure the expiry date has not passed.
  • Carefully open the package so that the condom does not tear.
  • Keep condoms away from sharp objects such as rings, studs, or piercings.
  • Store condoms at room temperature.
  • A new condom should be used every time you have sex.
  • Use only water-based lubricants with male latex condoms. Oil-based lubricants, such as petroleum jelly, lotion, or baby oil can weaken and destroy latex.
  • Avoid using spermicides containing nonoxynol-9 (N-9). It irritates sexual tissue and may increase the chance of getting an STI.

Get vaccinated

Some STIs, such as hepatitis A, B and human papillomavirus (HPV) can be prevented with vaccines. Talk to your health care provider about how to get these vaccinations.

Know your sexual health status

If you have recently changed sexual partners, or have multiple sex partners, getting regularly tested for STIs will tell you if you have an infection. Finding and treating an STI (including HIV) reduces the chances of passing the infection on to your partner.

The more partners you have, the more likely you are to be exposed to a sexually transmitted infection.

Talk about prevention

Talk to your partner about STIs and how you would like to prevent them before having sex. If you are having trouble discussing safer sex with your partner, talk about it with your health care provider or a counselor.

For tips on how to talk to your partner, visit the BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) SmartSexResource at http://smartsexresource.com/sex-talk/talk-about-it.

Informing Partners

If you have a sexually transmitted infection and are sexually active, it is important to tell your sexual partners. This will enable them to make decisions about their health and getting tested.

For More Information

For more information on how you can reduce your chance of getting an STI, see HealthLinkBC File #08o Preventing Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs).

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Is it an emergency?

If you or someone in your care has chest pains, difficulty breathing, or severe bleeding, it could be a life-threatening emergency. Call 9-1-1 or the local emergency number immediately.
If you are concerned about a possible poisoning or exposure to a toxic substance, call Poison Control now at 1-800-567-8911.

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