Childbed fever (synonyms: puerperal fever and puerperal fever) has been a feared disease of women who have recently given birth since the existence of the first hospitals, which used to lead to the death of the affected women in the majority of cases.
What is childbed fever?
Childbed fever initially manifests itself through typical fever symptoms. Affected women usually notice an increasing feeling of illness, with symptoms such as tiredness, tachycardia, nausea and abdominal pain. See AbbreviationFinder for abbreviations related to Childbed Fever.
Among the diseases that must be classified in the categories of infectious diseases is childbed fever. Another appropriate term for this disease is postpartum or puerperal fever.
It is typical of childbed fever that mothers develop the symptoms that led to death in the past after the birth of a viable child or after a stillbirth. Nowadays, puerperal fever is very rare and can be treated well.
Childbed fever is blood poisoning, which was discovered by the Viennese doctor Ignaz Semmelweiß. He also developed the appropriate preventive methods to avoid childbed fever. Childbed fever has therefore lost its horror today.
The causal triggers that lead to childbed fever include microbial pathogens, the bacteria. They are spread through unsatisfactory hygienic conditions or through insufficient hand, instrument and device disinfection and sterilization.
Since the birth canal in women is a large open wound after childbirth, the disease-causing germs can be introduced very quickly.
Another cause that can trigger childbed fever involves an incomplete afterbirth. For various reasons, it can happen after childbirth that the placenta does not detach completely and residues remain in the woman’s body. These act like “corpse poison” through the dying tissue and contribute to sepsis or poisoning.
So-called “corpse poison” occurs when organs that are no longer alive are decomposed by microorganisms and these enter the bloodstream. In addition, cell-damaging decomposition products are formed, which are toxic to the body.
Symptoms, Ailments & Signs
Childbed fever initially manifests itself through typical fever symptoms. Affected women usually notice an increasing feeling of illness, with symptoms such as tiredness, tachycardia, nausea and abdominal pain. As the disease progresses, patients vomit repeatedly, with symptoms such as stomach pain and heartburn occurring. There is also inner restlessness and nervousness, which in severe cases can lead to a panic attack.
The initially slightly elevated temperature develops into a severe fever. At the beginning of the disease, there are usually only minor health problems. In the later stages, serious complications such as hypotension, circulatory shock and blood poisoning can occur. Another symptom is bleeding between periods and unpleasant-smelling bleeding.
A delayed period or a missed period are also possible indications of an infection. However, the disease can also progress without such signs. Some patients may experience other symptoms, always depending on existing illnesses and the severity of the fever.
After a few days at the latest, however, the disease always causes severe discomfort and serious symptoms that quickly increase in intensity. Ultimately, the fever leads to a circulatory collapse. If not treated or not treated sufficiently, it is almost always fatal.
Diagnosis & History
With the current modern medical procedures and methods, it is no longer a problem to diagnose childbed fever in good time and to treat it without any lasting health consequences.
When treating mothers affected by childbed fever, the specialists use antibiotic medication to bring about a reduction in the inflammatory processes in the organism and to inhibit the ability of the disease-causing pathogens to divide. In addition, childbed fever can not only be treated causally, but also successfully symptomatically. In this context, medicines for nausea and vomiting and antipyretics help women recover and recover quickly.
It is important that the women watch themselves closely during childbirth and have them examined by the gynaecologist. This often prescribes medicines that improve the involution of the uterus and its healing.
In the worst case, childbed fever can lead to the death of the patient. Those affected suffer from a very high fever and usually also severe pain in the stomach and abdomen. Vomiting and nausea continue. If left untreated, childbed fever can also trigger circulatory shock, causing those affected to faint and injuring themselves if they fall.
As a rule, there is also inner restlessness and the patients suffer from breathing difficulties and an increased heart rate. If the childbed fever is still not treated, acute blood poisoning can occur, which in most cases leads to death. The patient’s resilience decreases considerably as a result of the disease and the individual organs are also damaged.
Without treatment, there is a significant reduction in life expectancy. Childbed fever is usually treated with surgery or medication. The complaints can thus be limited relatively well. Early treatment does not reduce life expectancy.
When should you go to the doctor?
Women who feel excessively exhausted or ill after childbirth should definitely inform the responsible doctor. Childbed fever is a serious condition that needs to be diagnosed and treated immediately. If symptoms such as nausea and vomiting, fever or tachycardia become noticeable, a doctor must be consulted. Circulatory problems or unusually severe abdominal pain should always be checked out by a doctor to avoid life-threatening complications. Medical advice is needed at the latest when signs of blood poisoning or impending circulatory shock are noticed.
Women who have had a difficult birth are particularly prone to developing childbed fever. A doctor should monitor recovery and initiate an evaluation if symptoms are noted. If you suddenly experience severe pain or gastrointestinal problems, you must inform your doctor immediately. The same applies to an unusual feeling of illness that rapidly increases in intensity. The right contact person is the clinic doctor or a gynecologist. If in doubt, the nearest hospital should be consulted.
Treatment & Therapy
In medicine, different approaches are used to treat childbed fever, depending on the extent of the disease. The individual procedures are divided into local and general measures.
Local applications are appropriate for childbed fever when it appears that puerpural ulcers have formed in the uterus. In the case of childbed fever, these are surgically opened or eliminated through the targeted use of caustic solutions.
In order to stabilize the general condition of the mothers, drugs that stimulate and strengthen the circulation and, if necessary, infusions are administered. These can be both purely synthetic and plant-based. Breastfeeding the children is not possible during childbed fever.
Despite all treatment options, it must still be assumed today that mothers with childbed fever can die if they are not treated.
Outlook & Forecast
Childbed fever is a potentially life-threatening inflammation of the uterus after childbirth. The delivery has left open wounds that can quickly become infected with invading bacteria. Because the uterus is so compromised, the immune system cannot work as fast as the bacteria multiply, so infection can occur very quickly in unsanitary conditions. This leads to blood poisoning with multi-organ failure and subsequent death.
This course was unavoidable in earlier centuries, when there were no antibiotics. Today, two factors ensure that childbed fever is no longer the leading cause of death in women immediately after childbirth. On the one hand, the hygienic conditions in hospitals and clinics prevent the wounded uterus from becoming infected. On the other hand, even in the event of an infection with bacteria, there would be the possibility of admitting the woman to the hospital and treating it with high-dose antibiotics. As a result, childbed fever would still be extremely unpleasant, but a fatal outcome can almost be ruled out in an otherwise healthy woman.
The chances of complete recovery are therefore good these days. It has a positive effect on the prognosis if childbed fever is recognized and treated as such at an early stage.
Keeping contaminants away from the birth wound is essential to preventing childbed fever. Appropriate hygiene as part of surface disinfection is obligatory against childbed fever.
In addition, the doctors only use sterile instruments and wear disposable gloves. These measures apply not only to the clinics, but also to home births and must be observed by the midwives who help. If women who have already given birth to childbed fever are cared for by a midwife, she should initially only provide limited obstetrics in order to avoid the spread of germs.
Observing the applicable hygiene, disinfection and sterilization requirements is essential in obstetrics to prevent childbed fever.
Follow-up care is primarily associated with tumors. Doctors hope that a narrow grid of examinations will enable them to treat a recurring and life-threatening disease in its early stages. It is true that childbed fever can also lead to the death of the young mother. However, there are no further dangers after recovery.
A return of childbed fever would result from another birth, but not from the first. Since the mother no longer has any complaints, no follow-up care is necessary immediately after the original diagnosis. The risk of death is preventable. The nursing staff is responsible for this. On the one hand, adequate hygienic standards ensure that an illness does not develop in the first place.
On the other hand, antibiotics achieve a cure. In the western industrialized countries, workers in obstetrics are aware of the risk of childbed fever. They ensure that complications do not arise in the first place. As a result, they take over the actual aftercare.
Other areas of aftercare can generally be everyday support and long-term therapeutic treatment. However, both aspects do not come into play with childbed fever. Antibiotics allow for a full recovery. The young mother no longer feels any suffering and can go on with her life without any worries.
You can do that yourself
Childbed fever has long been one of the leading causes of death in women of childbearing age. The causes are now known and preventive measures and therapy methods have been developed to effectively combat this disease. However, the disease can still be fatal. Women who experience symptoms of childbed fever after giving birth need to seek medical attention. Self-treatment of the symptoms is life-threatening.
Childbed fever is noticeable through increased temperature, nausea and vomiting as well as abdominal pain. In severe cases, there is even a risk of blood poisoning or circulatory shock. However, a patient should not let it get that far in the first place and should attend all recommended follow-up examinations after the birth. In this way, incipient infections can be recognized and treated at an early stage.
In addition, prevention is very important. When choosing a maternity clinic, women who feel compelled to give birth to their child outside of a Western industrialized country should make sure that modern hygiene standards are observed and explicitly ask the staff about this. In the case of a home birth, the hygiene standards of the midwife must be checked. Patients should calmly ask which disinfectant is used for their hands and have this shown to them during a preliminary examination.
If acute childbed fever has occurred, the patients must take it easy. Under no circumstances should attempts be made to breastfeed the newborn during this time.