Cervicitis (inflammation of the cervix) is considered the female equivalent of non-specific urethritis (NSU), although it may be a finding on clinical examination. Cervicitis is defined as >30 WBC/HPF, plus inflammation and/or a discharge. The cervix may be friable.

Cervicitis may be associated with pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) and an assessment for PID should occur, including a bimanual exam with testing to elicit cervical excitation and adnexal tenderness.

  • Common infective causes of cervicitis include Chlamydia trachomatis and Neisseria gonorrhoeae
  • Other possible STI’s may include Mycoplasma genitalium and Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV)
  • Non-STI causes for cervicitis can occur, and an organism may not be found.
  • Trichomoniasis can cause inflammation to the ectocervix and the appearance known as “strawberry cervix”
Clinical presentation


The symptoms of cervicitis include:

  • Intermenstrual bleeding or post-coital bleeding
  • low abdominal pain
  • vaginal discharge
  • pain on sexual intercourse


The signs of cervicitis include:

  • endocervical discharge
  • contact bleeding from the cervix
  • cervical tenderness on examination
  • friable cervix.

STI Atlas (external site)

  • Endocervical specimens are essential. A vaginal speculum and bimanual exam should be performed.
  • Endocervical microscopy – >30 WBC/HPF in the absence of gonococci.
  • Endocervical culture for gonorrhoea and other organisms (glass slide and swab in charcoal [black] or non-charcoal [clear] agar gel transport medium. 
  • Endocervical NAAT for chlamydia and gonorrhoea and M.genitalium (no transport medium).
  • Separate endorcervical NAAT for M. genitalium (no transport medium).
  • Vaginal microscopy, and culture, to exclude other causes of discharge, eg candidiasis, bacterial vaginosis, anaerobes (Consider pH testing, elevated for BV and trichomoniasis).
  • Vaginal PCR for Trichomonas vaginalis.
  • Consider HSV as a cause of cervicitis especially if ulceration present. 
  • Added STI screen – treponemal serology, and HIV and HBV serology.
  • Consider pregnancy testing in those at risk
  • Consider cervical cancer screening especially in those with abnormal bleeding. If not significantly overdue, may consider deferring pap smear if significant inflammation and patient likely to reattend.

The following is for uncomplicated cervicitis, If PID is suspected clinically, treat accordingly. 


  • Doxycycline 100 mg orally, twice daily for 7 days


  • Azithromycin 1 g orally, as a single dose
  • Consider treatment for gonorrhoea if:
    • Patient in at-risk population or in areas where this infection is common.
    • Clinical exam reveals mucopurulent cervicitis, and
    • Treat with ceftriaxone 500mg given by intramuscular injection and azithromycin 1g orally as a single dose

Pregnancy or breastfeeding

If the organism is known, see relevant STI guidelines for treatment recommendation:

Management of partners

No sexual contact for 7 days after treatment and avoid sexual contact with prior partners until 7 days after they have been tested and treated. 

Male sexual partners should be tested and treated for presumed NSU. Partners should be advised no sexual contact for 7 days after completion of treatment (if required) and to avoid sexual contact with partners from the last 6 months until 7 days after they have been tested and treated.

Education, counselling and prevention

Patients should be advised no sexual contact for 7 days after completion of treatment and to avoid sexual contact with partners from the last 6 months until 7 days after they have been tested and treated.

Follow up

Until post-treatment review ask patients to avoid unprotected sexual intercourse. Review at one week after cessation of treatment and:

  • Assess resolution of signs and symptoms
  • Review results of tests and manage appropriately, and
  • Review success of contact tracing.
Public health issues

This is not a notifiable disease, unless a specific cause is found.

Contact tracing and further counselling are important.

Always test for other STIs.