What are Puerperal Infections?

What are Puerperal Infections?

Puerperal infection is often associated with childbirth making it a risk for pregnant women. It is actually a bacterial infection of the uterus and its surrounding areas, which may start right after birth. Sometimes it is also called It’s also known as a postpartum infection.

The post-delivery infections account for more than 10% pregnancy-related deaths only in the USA and the ratio is much higher in developing countries. The situation is worst in undeveloped areas where delivery linked mortality rate is highest due to improper sanitation and lacking other basic facilities.

Some common types of postpartum infections are as follows.

  • Endometritis: an infection of the uterine lining
  • Myometritis: an infection of the uterine muscle
  • Parametritis: an infection of the areas around the uterus

All of these represent a different infection of a specific part of the uterus. For example, endometritis is an infection of uterine’s inner lining.

Also read- What Is the Link Between Infections and Cardiovascular Diseases?

Signs that you have a puerperal infection

The common symptoms of such an infection are as follows:

  • A high fever
  • Extreme pain in the lower abdomen
  • Sharp pain in the pelvis
  • Swelling of uterus
  • A foul smell coming from the vagina
  • Abnormal vaginal discharge
  • Pale yellow skin
  • Sweating and chills
  • Discomforting feeling
  • Appetite loss
  • Headache and body pains

These symptoms may not show up altogether. It takes some time for these symptoms to show up. As it is a bacterial infection, it may need some days to show noticeable symptoms. It may appear after you leave the hospital with your baby.

Once these symptoms show up, it is the time to get back to your doctor. It is important to look for these body changes even after discharge from the hospital. Do not ignore if any abnormal sigh shows after you deliver a baby.

What causes a puerperal infection?

Puerperal infection is not that common now as the new age antibiotics are very efficient. However, bacteria are a normal part of the skin’s microflora. Some of them like streptococcus and staphylococcus literally live on human skin all the times.

A warm and humid environment is favorable for their growth.

Talking about postpartum infections, they may initiate right after delivery. At this stage, the uterus is extremely sensitive and if the bacteria make their way to the amniotic sac, an infection starts. Note that an amniotic sac is a structure that contains fetus.

Also read- Is there a treatment for norovirus infection?

Who is at risk of postpartum infections?

The risk factor for everyone is different. It depends upon various factors including the way of delivery. Usually, the incidence of infections among common delivery types follows.

In normal vaginal deliveries, it accounts for 1% to 3% of the cases.

The infection risk increases when other factors combine. Some of the risk factors are

  • Obesity and overweight
  • Anemia
  • A very long labor
  • The young age of the mother
  • Bacterial vaginosis
  • Internal monitoring of the fetus
  • Bacterial vaginosis
  • Numerous vaginal exams
  • Bacterial strains in the vaginal canal
  • Post delivery excessive bleeding
  • Placenta remains inside uterus
  • A long delay between amniotic sac rupture and delivery

Also read- A deadly Infection By Hantavirus making headlines

Diagnosis of puerperal infection

You cannot really make this diagnosis by yourself. Only a doctor can diagnose puerperal infection through a physical exam. The examination is confirmed through urine or a blood sample for the bacteria. Or a direct swab from the vagina can also confirm it.

The complications puerperal infections

Although any complication is rare it may show up if it is not diagnosed on time. Some of the possible complications of this infection are

  • Abscess production
  • Peritonitis
  • Pelvic thrombophlebitis
  • Sepsis
  • Pulmonary embolism

Is there are a treatment for puerperal infections?

Such infections are easy to treat with oral antibiotics alone. The best antibiotics that help in general postpartum bacterial infections are clindamycin (Cleocin) and gentamicin (Gentasol). A doctor will prescribe the most suitable antibiotics as per the individual case.

Also read- What Are the Symptoms Of a Staph Infection?

How to prevent it?

Normally, unsanitary conditions lead to bacterial infections. The risk of postpartum infections increases during unhygienic clinical practices or poor quality healthcare. It is necessary to pick a healthcare system that follows hygienic practices.

The biggest risk factor in such infections is the type of delivery. In case of a scheduled cesarean delivery, it is necessary to talk to your doctor about preventive steps for postpartum infections.

As per research, the following steps may reduce the incidence of puerperal infection

  • An antiseptic shower before surgery
  • Removal of pubic hair by waxing instead of shaving
  • Use of chlorhexidine-alcohol to prepare the skin before surgery
  • Using extended-spectrum antibiotics prior to surgery

Many doctors advise and follow these steps already to reduce the risk for women developing post-delivery infections.

The final word

Puerperal infection is a type of post-delivery infections, one of the leading cause of delivery related deaths worldwide. The major reasons that cause this infection are underprivileged conditions and poor health leading to longer recovery time from delivery.

The chances of getting an infection increase if hygienic clinical practices are followed. Even if symptoms of puerperal infection show up, timely medical attention can treat it. Feel free to talk to your doctor about it before delivery. Also, consult a doctor as soon as possible if any abnormal symptoms show up.


The author is a Medical Microbiologist and healthcare writer. She is a post-graduate of Medical Microbiology and Immunology. She covers all content on health and wellness including weight loss, nutrition, and general health. Twitter @Areeba94789300

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