Although pregnancy is the same for women worldwide, their safety varies greatly depending on where the women live and the type of medical care they receive, if any.
Sepsis is an illness that can develop in some pregnant women, as well as in women who have recently delivered a baby or babies. Sepsis that occurs during pregnancy is called maternal sepsis. If it develops within six weeks of delivery, it is called postpartum sepsis or puerperal sepsis. Sometimes incorrectly 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.
Sepsis and septic shock can result from an infection anywhere in the body, such as pneumonia, influenza, or urinary tract infections. Worldwide, one-third of people who develop sepsis die. Many who do survive are left with life-changing effects, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), chronic pain and fatigue, organ dysfunction (organs don’t work properly), and/or amputations.
Maternal and postpartum sepsis are more common in the developing countries, but they also do strike women in wealthier countries, including in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, between 2011 and 2013 infection or sepsis caused 12.7% of pregnancy-related deaths in the United States. Pregnancy-associated sepsis requires early detection, accurate diagnosis, and aggressive treatment. In fact, a new study published in October 2013 reported that “Sepsis is currently the leading cause of direct maternal death in the United Kingdom.”