Childbed fever, also known as puerperal fever, is a kind of infection that affects the uterus. Although it is rare now due to advancement in medicine and sanitary practices, it was once a common cause of death for mothers. If this infection affects the bloodstream, it constitutes puerperal sepsis.
Earlier, due to the lack of availability of basic sanitary items like soap and gloves, there was an outbreak of childbed fever. This was most commonly caused by a certain kind of bacteria called Streptococcus pyogenes. This condition still exists today but thankfully, it can be treated with the help of antibiotics. It can be prevented by taking extra precautions postpartum.
Symptoms of Childbed Fever
Those suffering from childbed fever would have an actual fever accompanied by a loss of appetite, headache and chills. It will also cause severe pain in the lower abdomen which is caused by a swollen uterus. A foul-smelling discharge from the vagina is also common for those with childbed fever.
Apart from this, you may experience an increased heart rate and a sense of overall discomfort due to being ill. The skin may grow pale indicating blood loss in large volumes.
Causes of Childbed Fever
Although postpartum infections are less common due to the introduction of antiseptics, it still exists due to bacteria like Streptococcus which thrives in warm and moist conditions. The uterus can get infected if the amniotic sac (which holds the fetus) is infected.
People who had a caesarean are more likely to get childbed fever than those who had a normal delivery. Being anaemic, obese, or young could put you at a higher risk of childbed fever. Those who have a prolonged delivery, excessive bleeding post delivery could also put you at a higher risk of childbed fever.
Treatment of Childbed Fever
The doctor may prescribe some kind of oral antibiotic to help cure the childbed fever. Clindamycin and gentamicin are antibiotics that your doctor may recommend. It would be prescribed specifically to treat the type of bacteria that is causing the infection.
Interesting Facts About Childbed Fever
1. The first case of childbed fever was reported in 1797 - 3 centuries ago. It was the mother of Mary Shelley (author of Frankenstein) whose name was Mary Wollstonecraft. There was no treatment or cure for the disease at that time. It then became one of the main causes of birth-related deaths of mothers around the world.
2. The most common cause of this infection is a type of bacteria called Streptococcus. This is indeed the same bacteria that causes strep throat.
3. For centuries together, the cause of childbed fever remained unknown. This was because while doctors were trying to reason it out, women believed that it was caused due to being possessed by evil spirits.
4. The last outbreak was caused because an anesthesiologist who scraped his hand on a rosebush. He may not have cleaned his hand after bleeding out and thus the infection would have spread to others from that one open wound.