What is postpartum infection?
Postpartum infection includes any infection that occur after vaginal or cesarean delivery or during breastfeeding. In addition to trauma sustained during the delivery or cesarean procedure, physiologic changes during pregnancy contribute to the development of postpartum infections.
The typical pain that many women feel in the immediate postpartum period also makes it difficult to discern postpartum infection from postpartum pain. Some common infections include:
- Endometritis, an infection of the endometrium (uterine lining)
- Mastitis, a breast infection
- Infected incision
- Urinary tract infection
How common is postpartum infection?
In one study, 94% of postpartum infection cases were diagnosed after discharge from the hospital. Postpartum infections occur more often in places with unhygienic practices or poor quality healthcare.
However, it can be managed by reducing your risk factors. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.
What are the symptoms of postpartum infection?
Many infections are when patients express a feeling of fever, chills, or a general feeling of illness or discomfort. Other signs and symptoms may include:
- Lower abdominal pain, a low-grade fever, or foul-smelling lochia (signs of endometritis)
- A painful, hard, warm, red area (usually only on one breast) and fever, chills, muscle aches, fatigue, or a headache (signs of mastitis)
- Redness, discharge, swelling, warmth, or increasing tenderness or pain around an incision site or wound (whether it’s a c-section incision, an episiotomy, or a laceration) or an incision that looks like it’s beginning to separate
- Difficulty urinating, painful urination, the feeling that you need to urinate often and urgently but little or nothing comes out, or urine that’s cloudy or bloody (signs of a urinary tract infection)
When should I see my doctor?
Postpartum patients are frequently discharged within a couple days following delivery. The short period of observation may not afford enough time to exclude evidence of infection prior to discharge from the hospital.
Early diagnosis and treatment can stop postpartum infection from worsening and prevent another medical emergency, so talk to your doctor as soon as possible to prevent this serious condition.
What causes postpartum infection?
Postpartum infections are less common since the introduction of antiseptics and penicillin. However, some skin flora such as Streptococcus or Staphylococcus and other bacteria still cause infections. These thrive in moist and warm environments.
Postpartum infections often start in the uterus after delivery. The uterus can become infected if the amniotic sac becomes infected.
What increases my risk for postpartum infection?
Based on the method used to deliver your baby, your risk for developing an infection after you deliver is different. The chance of contracting an infection is:
- 1 to 3% in normal vaginal deliveries
- 5 to 15% in scheduled cesarean deliveries performed before labor begins
- 15 to 20% in non-scheduled cesarean deliveries performed after labor begins
There are some additional factors that may make a woman more at risk for developing an infection, include:
- Bacterial vaginosis, a sexually transmitted infection
- Multiple vaginal exams during labor
- Monitoring the fetus internally
- Prolonged labor
- Delay between amniotic sac rupture and delivery
- Colonization of the vaginal tract with Group B streptococcus bacteria
- Having remains of the placenta in the uterus after delivery
- Excessive bleeding after delivery
- Young age
- Low socioeconomic group
Diagnosis & Treatment
The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.
How is postpartum infection diagnosed?
Through some physical exams, postpartum infections can be diagnosed by your doctor. Your doctor may take a urine or a blood sample to test for bacteria or use a cotton swab to take a culture of your uterus to detect postpartum infections
How is postpartum infection treated?
Because an untreated infection can quickly become serious, it’s important to alert your doctor as soon as possible if you experience a fever or any of the other symptoms described above.
You will be given antibiotics to treat the infection. Be sure to let your doctor know if you are breastfeeding because that will influence which medications they prescribe. Oral antibiotics are usually enough, but in some serious situations you may need intravenous antibiotics and possibly other treatments. For example, if you have an infected wound, it may need to be opened surgically and drained.
You will probably begin to feel better within a few days of starting antibiotics, but it is important to take the full course of medication, even if your symptoms disappear. Ask your doctor how long the drugs should take to start working, and be sure to let her know if they don’t seem to be helping within that time period. You may need to switch to another drug, or there may be something else going on.
Don’t forget to drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration, and get as much rest as possible to help your body fight the infection.
Lifestyle changes & Home remedies
What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage postpartum infection?
It is considered that there are some home remedies to prevent postpartum infection.
- Taking an antiseptic shower on the morning of surgery
- Removing pubic hair with clippers rather than a razor
- Using chlorhexidine-alcohol to prepare the skin
- Taking extended-spectrum antibiotics before surgery.
If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
Postpartum infection. http://www.healthline.com/health/puerperal-infection. Accessed Mar 12, 2017.
Postpartum infection. http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/796892-overview#a4. Accessed Mar 12, 2017.
Review Date: March 12, 2017 | Last Modified: September 13, 2019