Whilst most women’s labor goes without serious complications, some women may experience infections after giving birth. When identified quickly, most of these infections are relatively minor and can be cleared up quickly with a simple course of antibiotics. Others, however, if left untreated can lead to far more serious infections and even sepsis, something which I personally experienced after the birth of my second child.
There are some signs of infection that you should be aware of post labor to ensure these are identified as soon as possible, allowing you to seek medical advice and get the treatment that you need.
- Fever – Whilst its normal to feel tired after labor, my first sign that something wasn’t quite right was feeling cold and shivery, despite it being a hot summer day outside. If you have a thermometer at home, look for any signs of a fever or raised temperature, as this is normally a sign that your body is fighting an infection. Whilst you may feel cold or hot with a fever, your physical temperature may be much higher than normal (98.2 F/36.8 C is a normal temperature in adults, and a fever would generally be above 100.4 F/38 C)
- C-section scars and stitches do have a tendency to look a little sore and red right after your birth; however, keep an eye out for high amounts of redness, swelling, or oozing of liquid from the site of your scar or stitches, particularly if these appear to be getting worse, not better. This could be completely normal; however, they could also be the sign of a skin infection.
- When your body is fighting an infection, you may find that your pulse or resting heart rate is much faster than usual. You may at times feel like your heart is beating strongly in your chest or experience palpitations. This is a sign that your body is having to work harder than usual.
- Generally feeling ‘off’ – this one is a really difficult one to measure, as let’s face it, after a long labor and very little sleep, no one feels entirely wonderful after giving birth, but I generally felt really odd and couldn’t put my finger on the reason why.
- Loss of appetite – Normally after childbirth your appetite kicks in again pretty quickly, particularly if you are breastfeeding and using up a lot more calories to feed your baby. A lack of hunger or feeling nauseous or unwell at the prospect of food can be a sign that something isn’t quite right.
- Another very common infection, whilst not linked to the labor itself, is mastitis, which is quite often seen in women who are breastfeeding or expressing milk. The first signs of mastitis include red, swollen areas on the breast and can be caused by engorged breasts and blocked milk ducts. Left untreated, it can lead to severe flu-like symptoms which can make moms feel very poorly.
How can I avoid infections?
Some infections happen despite your best efforts; however, in order to try and avoid infections after labor you should practice good hand hygiene at all times and avoid touching your c-section wound or stitches unless necessary.
You should aim to keep your wound area clean and protected at all times and wash regularly, avoiding scented soaps which could cause discomfort or irritation.
After a c-section, you should also ensure that your underwear goes above the site of your c-section wound and doesn’t rub or make contact with the incision site.
Most importantly, if you notice any signs of infection as outlined above, or have any doubts at all about symptoms you are experiencing, seek medical advice as soon as possible. It is far better to be safe than sorry and in my case, it quite possibly saved my life.