Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Your best interests.

Some people see a pregnant woman on the street and resist the urge (or not) to rub her belly. I want to run over and hand her a thermometer.

I want to tell her that I know the nurses coming in to take her temperature after the birth of the baby may seem an annoyance when they wake you up, may not tell you why they are doing this, but it is important. It is of life and death importance, as a matter of fact. I want to tell her that she should continue taking her temperature every afternoon until at least her 6 week checkup, even though the last thing she has time for is "one more thing."

Many women don't realize, and I definitely didn't, that postpartum infection is still a common cause of death for women. Some assume the temporary rise in temp due to engorgement is the issue, but any fever is important even if there are no other obvious symptoms. Infection can become seated in the breast, uterus, cervix, vagina, vulva, and urinary tract. C-sections can make you more likely to develop infection, but a vaginal birth does not put you in the clear.

Be aware of the following symptoms, but don't discount your fever if they are not present:


-bad smelling discharge (can be a sign of endometritis, the most common postpartum infection)

-Changes or difficulty urinating

-lower abdominal pain

-pain that increases during your recovery time

-Tenderness, discharge, redness or swelling at your c-section incision, episiotomy or laceration

-signs of mastitis such as chills,muscle aches, fatigue, soreness or hard area of the breast

Sweats and hot flashes are common after giving birth, but can also be signs of fighting infection. If you find yourself running hot and cold, take your temperature at BOTH times. I missed most of my temperature spikes while temping when I felt hot. When I tested during a cold chill I realized I was running a fever of almost 104.

Some symptoms can seem less obvious:


-sore throat

-fast pulse (over 100 beats per minute)

-vomiting and diarrhea

-headache and generally feeling unwell

Whether it is called postpartum infection, childbed fever, endometritis or purperal fever doesn't matter. What matters is that it is avoidable, treatable and women don't have to die from it every year.

But they do. I almost did.

I want to write about exactly what happened, the chain of events that took me from happy new mama to begging for someone to help me. I will, that's one of my goals this month. The thing is, it's hard. Even now, writing this, my chest starts heaving with the importance of what I'm saying. I want so desperately for others to avoid what I went through, that I fear failing to get this message across clearly enough.

I want women to read this for their own information, and pass it along to their friends, sisters, cousins, coworkers. Caught early, postpartum infections can be an annoyance, treated with antibiotics that can take care of them completely and permanently.

I was passed along, ignored, doubted, given the wrong antibiotics and told not to say my cervix hurts but to wait until they did the exam and could find out where the problem was.

It did hurt. It's where the infection started while I was pregnant and where it was allowed to grow more severe daily.I'm still trying to wrap my mind and my words around the fact that my son and I are both very lucky to have survived this. Still trying to cope with the fact that medical incompetence, negligence and a faulty system cost me thousands of dollars, major trauma and my uterus.

It shouldn't matter that I didn't plan on more children. I should have had my womb available to me, regardless. That's another story, for another day.

In the meantime, I just want to say that if you or someone you know has unexplained contractions they need to ask their doctor about the possibility of infection. If, after the baby is born, they start showing signs of fever or illness they need to call the dr right away and insist on being seen. Don't give up, keep pushing.

And use those thermometers.


Anonymous said...

What you went through was above and beyond WRONG! How so many healthcare workers dropped the ball with your health and ultimately YOUR LIFE is abominable.

My prayers are with you that you are able to health emotionally from all that trauma.


Emma B. said...

I want to tell you thank you for putting your story out there. I'd read your blog when I was pregnant, and when I started feeling Not Right after the birth, I remembered it. I got help pretty quickly, and I think I may be on the road to being okay -- I've got a ways to go yet, but at least I'm starting to improve, and we've got a Plan B in place.

A couple things I want to add to your discussion of symptoms, if that's okay:

Bleeding too little can be a sign of trouble too, as surely as bleeding too much. I stopped bleeding two days after the birth, and didn't think anything of it. Turns out I was still bleeding, but it was all building up in my uterus instead of coming out -- not good.

Even a low-grade fever can be a trouble sign when coupled with other symptoms. I thought I couldn't have an infection, because surely I'd have a higher fever instead of piddling around in the 99s. Again, wrong.

Postpartum infections are serious and scary. Your story helped me get out of this one with my uterus and my sanity intact, and I thank you. I hope that's some comfort to you, that you've helped at least one woman.

Mandy said...

Emma, I just saw your comment and you are absolutely right about bleeding too little! I can't believe I forgot to put that in there! Even though I bled profusely at delivery, I stopped bleeding before I left the hospital. Many doctors ignored what I was telling them about feeling ill because I wasn't having severe bleeding.

And thank YOU for commenting here. I have often prayed that what I went through would at least help someone else.