What is Maternal Sepsis and do you know the signs?
February 17, 2023
This week, Michele at Mini First Aid is highlighting to us the dangers of maternal sepsis. In her classes she teaches about the signs and symptoms of sepsis in children but what if it’s YOU who develops it? A study by the UK Obstetric Surveillance System found mortality due to maternal sepsis has increased in the UK and is now the leading cause of direct maternal death.
This eye-opening blog from The Sepsis Trust is a vital read for all adults – after all, where would our children be if anything happened to us?? Make sure you and your loved ones can spot maternal sepsis – it could save a life.
This blog focuses on one new mum and her experience and battle with this awful life-threatening illness.
Lauren started to feel unwell about an hour after being discharged home from the hospital with her newborn baby, Max. Her stomach felt extremely tender and painful, her back ached and she felt absolutely exhausted. She assumed it was all part of her recovery, especially as she had some complications and lost a lot of blood whilst giving birth. By the evening she was in agony, freezing cold and shaking so violently that her husband, Allen, had to help her walk to their bedroom.
At 6am the following morning, Allen woke her up after noticing her breathing sounded different. Confused and disorientated, Lauren collapsed as she tried to get up and suffered a seizure. Allen rushed Lauren back to the birthing suite, where her observations were taken. Her temperature was above 40 degrees, her heart rate and blood pressure were severely abnormal and her oxygen levels were very low. Senior doctors rushed into the room and began hooking her up to IV antibiotics and fluids. An ultrasound scan of her abdomen showed tissue had been left in her womb and became infected. The infection had caused Lauren to develop sepsis – the body’s overwhelming immune response to infection which, if left unchecked, can lead to damage of the tissue and organs.
Lauren was taken in for surgery that evening to remove the tissue, which went well. No longer in pain and feeling much better, she was discharged a few days later with a course of antibiotics to take at home. The next two weeks were extremely difficult as she was unknowingly suffering from symptoms of Post-Sepsis Syndrome, all whilst caring for Max and her two other young children. During this time, she received a letter from the hospital confirming that sepsis had actually been caused by blood clots left in the womb, which hadn’t been visible on the ultrasound.
Serious infection leading to sepsis is most common after giving birth, especially in those who have cesarean section, forceps or vacuum delivery, or suffer a third-degree tear. Maternal sepsis can occur in women who sadly suffer a miscarriage, have an abortion, experience premature rupture of membranes, develop a UTI, endure prolonged labour with waters breaking more than 18 hours before the birth and in those who give birth prematurely.
A few days after finishing her course of antibiotics, Lauren began to feel unwell again. After she began vomiting the next morning, Lauren was rushed to hospital by ambulance. Three days after being admitted, doctors were still unable to confirm what was wrong, but suspected sepsis again. She returned home from hospital with another two-week course of different, stronger antibiotics. She said “I was just so relieved to see Max again, he was already 4 weeks old and I had barely spent any time with him. I got the biggest, most excited, cuddly welcome home from my two girls, who kept saying ‘Mummy, you came back!’ and ‘I love you!’ I will forever be grateful for the care that I received as it quite literally saved me. I still have good days and bad days, and sepsis recovery is no joke – but I will forever be grateful to still be here!”
An estimated 245,000 people suffer from sepsis in the UK each year, and sadly 48,000 of these will lose their lives – more than breast, bowel and prostate cancer deaths combined. Knowing the signs to look out for could save your, or a loved one’s life. Please help us protect even more people from the dangers of maternal sepsis by sharing this post with any friends or family who are pregnant, or planning a pregnancy!
Symptoms of sepsis in Adults-
• Slurred speech or confusion
• Extreme shivering or muscle pain
• Passing no urine in 24 hours
• Severe breathlessness
• ‘I feel like I might die’
• Skin that’s mottled, very pale, or slightly blue
With early diagnosis, sepsis can be treated with intravenous antibiotics and fluids, and the outlook is often good for the majority of patients who seek urgent medical attention. To learn more about sepsis, and to access our free resources and support services, please visit www.sepsistrust.org.