Postpartum Infection: Extremely Hazardous Consequences

by Johnny Jacks
The escalating rate of maternal deaths during childbirth is partially attributed to postpartum infection, a perilous condition that every mother must confront, with unpredictable consequences. What exactly is postpartum infection, and how can one mitigate the risks associated with it? This article aims to provide insights to ensure a safe journey through the birthing process.

Understanding Postpartum Infection

Postpartum sepsis manifests within approximately 6 weeks after childbirth. During this period, the mother becomes infected with bacteria that infiltrate from the female genitals into the vagina, uterus, and cervix, resulting in an infection. The primary culprits behind this condition are bacterial groups such as streptococcus, staphylococcus, and anaerobic bacteria like Clostridium and Bacteroides.

Postpartum infection typically manifests around six weeks after childbirth.

Postpartum infection typically manifests around six weeks after childbirth.

Factors Increasing Susceptibility

While postpartum infections can affect most women due to external factors, certain individuals face a higher risk. These include:

  • Pregnant women with a history of inflammation or multiple vaginal infections before childbirth.
  • Pregnant women who are obese or anemic.
  • Pregnant women experiencing prolonged delivery times.
  • Pregnant women with postpartum bleeding.
  • Women living in low-economic conditions and unsanitary environments.

To safeguard maternal health, it is crucial to be aware of these risk factors and take proactive measures for prevention. Explore the following article for further insights into ensuring a secure childbirth experience.

Women who have a history of vaginitis are more prone to bacterial infections.

Women who have a history of vaginitis are more prone to bacterial infections.

Indicators of Infection Following Vaginal Birth and Cesarean Section

Recognizing signs of infection after childbirth is crucial for timely intervention. Some evident symptoms of postpartum infection include:

Vaginal Birth

  • Foul odor in postpartum discharge.
  • Pain, discomfort, and persistent tenderness in the intimate area.
  • Slight fever.

Cesarean Section:

  • Burning pain and unusual firmness in the breasts not associated with milk production.
  • Escalating fever.

Incision Site (for Cesarean Section):

Signs of infection, such as increased discharge with burning sensation and redness.

General Indicators for Both Types of Birth:

  • Painful urination, accompanied by a burning sensation.
  • Presence of blood during urination.
  • Blood in the stool, signaling a potential urinary tract infection.
  • Being vigilant for these symptoms is imperative to promptly address any postpartum infection, ensuring the well-being of both the mother and the newborn.
Some signs of infection after giving birth.

Some signs of infection after giving birth.

Three Causes of Postpartum Infection in Mothers

Postpartum infection can result from various factors. According to medical professionals, bacteria such as Coli, hydrangea, Clostridium, and Bacteroides are direct agents responsible for bacterial infections. Typically, they enter a pregnant woman’s body through the following four scenarios.

Non-sterile birthing process: In some instances, issues like inadequate handwashing techniques and the absence of antibacterial measures in the birthing room fail to meet sterility standards. This increases the susceptibility of bacterial entry into the mother’s body during childbirth, leading to postpartum infection.

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Pre-existing gynecological diseases: Mothers who have experienced numerous vaginal infections before childbirth create a favorable environment for infection-causing bacteria. The compromised health of the mother’s private area provides an initial breeding ground for bacteria.

Prolonged postpartum recovery time: A lengthier recovery period, indicating more frequent prenatal checkups, elevates the risk of bacterial infections. The extended duration increases the likelihood of infection-causing bacteria gaining entry.

Inadequate postpartum care: Insufficient care of the private area after childbirth, lacking hygiene measures, allows bacteria to thrive. During this stage, women’s secretions are abundant, providing an ideal condition for bacterial multiplication.

Some causes of infection in mothers after giving birth.

Some causes of infection in mothers after giving birth.

Dire Consequences of Postpartum Infection for Mothers

Postpartum infection poses an exceedingly perilous threat, potentially leading to fatal outcomes for women after childbirth. It is imperative for mothers not to underestimate this issue. The following are seven prevalent and severe consequences faced by postpartum women dealing with infections.

Infections of the Perineum, Urinary Tract, Vagina, Cervix:

Reasons:

  • Incorrect incision and suturing procedures for the perineal incision, falling short of medical standards.
  • Inadequate hygiene standards in postpartum episiotomy care.
  • Vaginal tearing during childbirth.
  • Presence of gauze in the vagina.

Symptoms:

  • Swelling, redness, burning, and pus at the incision site.
  • Mild fever escalating to approximately 38 to 38.5 degrees Celsius.
  • Discharge may or may not have an odor.

Treatment:

    • Cleaning the site with potassium permanganate (peroxide) or betadine.
    • Partial or complete removal of the hemorrhoid if the perineal incision exhibits pus and swelling to facilitate fluid drainage.
    • Removal of vaginal gauze (if present due to a medical error).
    • Antibiotic usage based on specific indications for each case and the progression of the particular disease.
Perineal incision infection after childbirth.

Perineal incision infection after childbirth.

Uterine Lining Inflammation

Reasons:

  1. Prolonged labor leading to amniotic infection.
  2. Residual placenta, membrane remnants during childbirth, or membrane dissection procedures not meeting aseptic standards.

Symptoms:

  • Most postpartum endometritis cases exhibit a fever ranging from 38 to 39 degrees Celsius after 2 to 3 days of childbirth.
  • Foul-smelling discharge, potentially mixed with pus and blood.
  • Tachycardia, typically exceeding 100 beats per minute, accompanied by fatigue and lethargy.
  • Uterine pain, burning sensation, and slow contraction.

Treatment:

  • Medication, such as Paracetamol, may be prescribed by the doctor to reduce the mother’s fever.
  • Antibiotics, including commonly used ones like ampicillin and gentamycin, administered through injections for a 7-day course, tailored to the disease’s severity.
  • Drugs to enhance uterine contractions, such as oxytocin and ergometrin, may be prescribed.
  • If mucositis results from fluid retention, massaging may be recommended to facilitate fluid expulsion.

As inflammation intensifies and poses a greater risk of spreading throughout the entire uterus, there is a potential necessity for a complete removal, emphasizing the escalating danger associated with this condition.

Entire Uterus Infection

Reasons: The causes of a complete uterine infection often mirror those of endometrial infections. These causes may include the presence of residual tissues, membranes, or inadequately sterile procedures during membrane dissection.

Symptoms: Symptoms of this condition closely resemble those of a uterine lining infection but with a heightened severity. Notably, around the 8th or 10th day, an abnormal amount of blood, distinct from normal fluid, may be observed.

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Treatment:

  • In cases where inflammation has resulted in a pocket of pus, medical intervention involves puncturing the pus sac to drain its contents externally.
  • In more severe instances, a complete removal of the uterus may be deemed necessary to eradicate the infection.

When confronted with an entire uterus infection, it is advisable for the mother to seek treatment at a higher-level hospital. Such facilities offer enhanced medical expertise, superior facilities, and improved treatment conditions.

Infection of the entire uterus after childbirth adversely impacts health.

Infection of the entire uterus after childbirth adversely impacts health.

Pelvic Peritonitis

Reasons:

  • Secondary Pelvic Peritonitis: An infection that extends from the uterus, broad ligament, appendages, and perineum.
  • Primary Peritonitis: An infection originating in the uterus that may bypass other organs, either via the lymphatic route or by directly spreading to the posterior peritoneum, reaching the posterior sacrum, bowel, and bladder.

The inflammation’s spread leads to the formation of pseudomembranous structures, causing adhesion between the peritoneum and resulting in the creation of fluid pockets. The fluid may vary from clear to cloudy, containing pus or blood in severe cases.

Symptoms:

  • Warning signs typically manifest gradually, approximately 10 days after childbirth.
  • High fever ranging from 39 to 40 degrees Celsius.
  • Severe lower abdominal pain.
  • Pain in the uterine area, exacerbated upon pressure.
  • Presence of a small, painful lump adjacent to the uterus.

Treatment: Pelvic peritonitis can be fully cured if the patient responds positively to prescribed medications and appropriate treatment methods. Treatment approaches may vary depending on the medication and the specific circumstances of each individual.

In instances where treatment proves ineffective, the condition can escalate, leading to total peritonitis. The most severe outcome is maternal death. Hence, it is crucial for mothers to seek consultation on the treatment method at a reputable hospital under the guidance of an experienced physician.

Pelvic peritonitis.

Pelvic peritonitis.

Total Peritonitis

Reasons: Generalized peritonitis can be categorized as primary or secondary, with both forms primarily arising during delivery or cesarean section. Specific causes include:

  1. Hygiene Procedures in Medical Surgery: Inadequate personal hygiene practices of medical professionals and non-sterile conditions in delivery rooms.
  2. Medical Errors: Instances such as leaving bandages in the abdomen.
  3. Amniotic Fluid Infection: Resulting from prolonged labor.

Symptoms: Generalized peritonitis typically induces fatigue and high fever within 7 to 10 days postpartum. Additional accompanying symptoms may include a rapid pulse, difficulty breathing, and vomiting. The mother may experience discomfort, pain, and bloating in the abdomen. A blood test would reveal an elevated white blood cell count.

Treatment:

  • Antibiotics are commonly chosen by most doctors to address this condition.
  • In severe cases, a partial hysterectomy may be considered as part of the treatment plan for dangerous conditions.

Prompt and appropriate medical intervention is crucial in managing total peritonitis.

Complete pelvic peritonitis.

Complete pelvic peritonitis.

Postpartum Sepsis

Reasons: Postpartum sepsis can occur due to the following reasons:

  1. Non-Sterile Surgical Process: Lack of assurance in maintaining sterile conditions during the surgical procedure.
  2. Inadequate Implementation of Preventive Measures: Failure to implement proper measures to prevent the entry of bacteria, leading to their penetration into the bloodstream through an open wound, posing a threat to health.
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Symptoms:

  • Pregnant women experiencing sepsis typically exhibit persistent high fever, with body temperatures reaching up to 40 degrees Celsius, accompanied by frequent chills.
  • Obvious signs of infection may include dry lips, difficulty breathing, and the presence of bloody urine.
  • The body displays weakness, accompanied by sensations of dizziness and nausea on a frequent basis.

Treatment

In the medical treatment approach, physicians typically employ antibiotics along with blood transfusions for pregnant women. Alternatively, surgical interventions, involving the removal of either a portion or the entirety of the inflamed area, contribute to the improvement of the disease’s condition.

Postpartum blood sugar infection.

Postpartum blood sugar infection.

Care Plan for Women with Postpartum Infection

To effectively care for women experiencing postpartum infection, family members should adhere to the following three principles:

Rule 1: Proper Antibiotic Use

  • Mothers should use antibiotics as prescribed by their doctor.
  • Caution must be exercised when taking antibiotics during breastfeeding, as improper use may lead to milk loss.
  • Consultation with a doctor before antibiotic use is crucial, and note that certain antibiotics, such as intravenous ones, are reserved for severe symptoms.
Follow the prescribed medication and antibiotic regimen recommended by your doctor.

Follow the prescribed medication and antibiotic regimen recommended by your doctor.

Rule 2: Emphasize Cleanliness

  • Mothers must prioritize body hygiene, especially in the intimate areas, post-childbirth, to prevent bacterial penetration.
  • Ensuring proper hygiene enhances the effectiveness of postpartum infection treatment.
  • Neglecting hygiene may exacerbate the condition, making it challenging to treat and potentially life-threatening.
Thoroughly cleanse and carefully maintain the hygiene of the vaginal area after childbirth.

Thoroughly cleanse and carefully maintain the hygiene of the vaginal area after childbirth.

Principle 3: Maintain Adequate Nutrition

  • Adopting a scientific and nutritious diet is essential for enhancing the mother’s self-resistance.
  • During postnatal infection treatment, mothers should increase the consumption of foods rich in vitamins C and E to boost the body’s resistance.
  • Nutrients like protein, omega, calcium, and iron play a vital role in improving health, and mothers should not overlook their significance.
  • Red meat, eggs, and milk are recommended for energy supplementation during this period.
  • Additionally, mothers should incorporate vitamin C-rich fruits such as oranges, grapefruits, apples, and guava into their diet.
Ensure sufficient nutrition for postpartum mothers.

Ensure sufficient nutrition for postpartum mothers.

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Preventing Postpartum Infection After Childbirth

Postpartum infections pose significant risks to a mother’s health following childbirth, with the most severe complication being death. Hence, it is crucial for mothers to exercise caution to prevent such occurrences.

Fortunately, postpartum infections are entirely preventable, and the following methods can help in minimizing the risks:

Address Inflammatory Conditions During Pregnancy:

    • Mothers experiencing conditions like vaginitis and fungal infections during pregnancy should ensure complete treatment before childbirth.
    • This precaution guarantees the cleanliness and sterility of the vagina and uterus, minimizing the risk of infection through open wounds during delivery.

Adhere to Hygiene Protocols During Childbirth:

    • Strict hygiene requirements exist before, during, and after childbirth.
    • Delivery rooms must maintain absolute sterility, and the hygiene standards of the delivery team and the mother are paramount.
    • Adhering to these standards is vital to ensure the mother is not exposed to infection from the environment.

Practice Hygiene Post Childbirth:

    • After childbirth, the body expels fluids, and open wounds in the intimate area create susceptibility to bacterial penetration.
    • To mitigate this risk, mothers should actively clean the intimate area regularly.
Regular gynecological examinations and treatment of inflammatory diseases can aid in preventing postpartum infections.

Regular gynecological examinations and treatment of inflammatory diseases can aid in preventing postpartum infections.

This summary provides information on postpartum infection syndrome and its severe consequences. It is hoped that this article offers an objective understanding of the dangers associated with the condition and effective prevention measures.

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