Postpartum infections usually occur in a new mother experiences 4-6 weeks after the delivery.
They are strongly associated with the events that occur during delivery or with breastfeeding. Finding postpartum infection symptoms is very common, especially during first two weeks of postpartum.
You are well aware what kind of difficulties and challenges your body experienced in the previous period. No wonder that it is still very fragile and vulnerable, and prone to different infections. Some of these infections can even start during labour, although their symptoms develop days or even weeks later.
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While postpartum infections are generally easy to treat, if left untreated they can have significant consequences, and they are even the sixth-leading cause of mortality of mothers in the world. Therefore, avoid any risks and if you notice some of the symptoms ask for a medical advice.
Common Postpartum Infections Symptoms
Infections can affect different organs or systems of organs. In order for the infection to be properly treated, its type and source need to be properly identified.
Some of the most common types and causes of postpartum infections are:
- Uterine infections
- Kidney infections
- Mastitis – Breast infections
- C-section incision
- Yeast infections
- Throat or an upper respiratory infection
Infection needs some time to develop, so you won’t be experiencing any symptoms for at least 24-48 hours. If you’ve contracted an infection during delivery, you will probably start being symptomatic 2-3 days past delivery.
While the symptoms may vary depending on an infection, some of the most common signs are high temperature (above 38o Celsius) and a rapid pulse (above 100 beats per minute). Other signs are usually related to the primary location of the infection – e.g. heavy bleeding can accompany a uterus infection.
Here are some of the symptoms you might be experiencing that could indicate an infection. Some of them are more specific, while other can signal numerous different diseases. Your physician will make the final diagnosis.
- Fever: Temperature of more than 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Centigrade) signals some kind of problem in postpartum period. Immediate checkup is needed.
- Pain: Pain is a common signal that something is wrong. In postpartum period, pain may be present along the episiotomy stitches or over the lacerations in case of infection. Walking and movement will cause severe discomfort in the pelvis.
- Episotomy wound infection: Increased pain, swelling, redness, or drainage from the episiotomy incision may be present.
- Infection of the uterus and surrounding tissues: A foul smelling vaginal discharge, increased bleeding and extreme tenderness in the lower abdomen are suggestive of uterus infection.
- General symptoms: Vomiting, headache, loss of appetite, and general malaise may be present. Rapid pulse and paleness are also among unspecific signals.
While all of the previously mentioned infections share some of the symptoms, they can also have some distinguishing characteristics. Here is what you can expect depending on the type of the infection you have.
Types of Postpartum Infections Found in New Mothers
Uterine infections and endometrits
Some women visit the doctor only because of the foul swelling discharge or lochia. Otherwise, they may remain asymptomatic. Other possible symptoms are high fever, racing heart rate abdominal pain, swelling of lower abdomen and indigestion.
Uterine infections can be very dangerous if not treated on time, and can increase the risk of endometritis. If the infectious agents access the blood stream, the risk of sepsis increases as well.
Wound infections and C-section incision
C-section and episiotomy wounds may become infected. Patients may experience symptoms such as erythema, edema, tenderness out of proportion to expected postpartum pain, and discharge from the wound or episiotomy site.
If the stitches of the surgical incision become infected, severe, life threatening complications might develop. If you experience severe, stingy pain in the place of the incision, or you notice blood or puss on that place, contact your doctor immediately, in order to be prescribed therapy.
Mastitis is an infection of breasts, and it is often unilateral. Breasts are tender and engorged, and in time they can become hard, red and painful. Chills and fever are also often present.
Urinary tract infections
Urinary tract infections can affect kidneys, urethras or bladder. Common symptoms are shaking, chills, fever, urinary urgency, frequency and burning sensation and pain in lower abdomen and groin and loin.
Infection in urinary system can increase the risk of renal stone formation, cause severe discomfort and delays your healing or recovery.
Throat and respiratory tract infections
Throat infections are very common, and they can be followed by high fever, dry throat, chills, cough, headache, nausea or vomiting, pain that worsens with swallowing or talking.
Symptoms of a yeast infection primarily affect the vagina and vaginal opening. Common symptoms also include irritation, redness, itchiness and foul-smelling discharge, pain during sexual intercourse, burning while urinating.
Causes and risk factors of certain infections
While a hospital is a place of healing, it is also a location where many different types of bacteria grow. Postpartum women are more vulnerable to infections. However, some women are more prone to the infections than others. There are some factors that increase the risk of postpartum infections:
Uterine infections and endometrits
- History of cesarean delivery
- Premature rupture of membranes
- Frequent cervical examination (Make sure that your doctor uses sterile equipment and gloves)
- Internal fetal monitoring
- Preexisting pelvic infection including bacterial vaginosis
- An inability to feed the baby (due to poor latch)
- Cracked nipples that introduce the germs in the skin
Throat infections during postpartum period are usually influenced by the exhaustion of mother’s organism. Mother becomes vulnerable, and bacteria that are always present in organism become more aggressive and cause the infection.
What should I do if I have some of these symptoms?
Infections are usually easy to treat, but if they go unnoticed, they can be very dangerous and even have the fatal epilogue. More often, however, infections don’t have such serious effects, but they still make postpartum recovery more difficult and prolonged, which is why you should seek help if you have these symptoms. Remember, it can be very dangerous to take any medication without consulting the doctor. They will prescribe you the right antibiotics (be sure to tell them if you are breastfeeding). Symptoms will start to fade away after few days, but you should still take the entire course of antibiotics. You can also help yourself by resting and drinking plenty of fluids.