Sepsis and Pregnancy

Although pregnancy is the same for women worldwide, their safety and the safety of their baby varies greatly, depending on where the women live and the type of medical care they receive – if any.

Sepsis is one of the illnesses that can – and does – develop in some pregnant women. Sometimes called blood poisoning, sepsis is the body's often deadly inflammatory response to infection. Sepsis kills and disables millions - more than breast cancer, lung cancer, and stroke combined.Worldwide, one-third of people who develop sepsis die. Many who do survive are left with organ dysfunction and/or amputations. (What is the prognosis (outcome) with sepsis?)

 It is more common in the developing world, but it also does affect women in North America and other wealthier countries. In the mid-90s, sepsis was responsible for about 7.6 percent of maternal deaths in the United States. And, in a study done by the Mayo Clinic, published in 2005, researchers found that although sepsis in pregnant was no longer as common in American hospitals, it still is potentially deadly and requires early detection, accurate diagnosis, and aggressive appropriate treatment.


How Does Sepsis Occur in Pregnant Women?

Sepsis can develop in a pregnant woman as the result of one of many complications, illnesses, or procedures. Here are just a few:

Abortions: Infections are a risk after any abortion. As a result, any woman who has had an abortion should watch for signs of infection and seek medical help immediately if there are any signs of infection (lasting or increasing pain, discolored or odorous discharge, abdominal tenderness, high temperature, fatigue, feeling unwell).

Cesarean sections: Sepsis can set in after surgery of any type. Cesarean sections are major abdominal surgery, with all the associated risks. See Sepsis and Surgery for more information.

Prolonged or obstructed labor, vaginal or Cesarean delivery: An unusually long time of labor or labor that stops could stress the body.

Infection following vaginal delivery: Although not common in the developed world among women who give birth in healthcare facilities, infections are very common in the developing world.

Influenza, HIV, other illnesses: Any illness that raises the risk of sepsis in the general population will do so in pregnant women as well. See Sepsis and Influenza, Sepsis and HIV/AIDS.


Famous people with pregnancy-related or post-maternal sepsis:

Lily Allen - British singer Lily Allen developed sepsis after experiencing a miscarriage.