What are postpartum infections?

Updated: Oct 11, 2019
  • Author: Andy W Wong, MD; Chief Editor: Bruce M Lo, MD, MBA, CPE, RDMS, FACEP, FAAEM, FACHE  more...
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Answer

Postpartum infections comprise a wide range of entities that can occur after vaginal and cesarean delivery or during breastfeeding. In addition to trauma sustained during the birth process or cesarean procedure, physiologic changes during pregnancy contribute to the development of postpartum infections. [1] The typical pain that many women feel in the immediate postpartum period also makes it difficult to discern postpartum infection from postpartum pain.

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. In one study, 94% of postpartum infection cases were diagnosed after discharge from the hospital. [2] Postpartum fever is defined as a temperature greater than 38.0°C on any 2 of the first 10 days following delivery exclusive of the first 24 hours. [3] The presence of postpartum fever is generally accepted among clinicians as a sign of infection that must be determined and managed.


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