Who is at Greatest Risk of Infection from C-Section?
According to medical publications, maternal mortality is eight times higher following a cesarean section (C-Section) than after a vaginal birth. And the United States has a higher rate of C-section deliveries than most other countries: nearly a third of births in this country are via cesarean section. Some C-sections are planned weeks in advance; others are done on an emergency basis during labor.
Even a relatively uncomplicated C-section involves a longer recovery time than a vaginal birth. After all, it is an invasive surgery. Like all surgeries, this procedure carries risks. One significant cause of maternal deaths after a cesarean birth is infection at the surgical site. Who is at greatest risk of infection, and can that risk be reduced?
Risk Factors for Infection After Cesarean Section
A post-surgical infection can happen after any cesarean birth, but there are certain factors that increase risk. These include:
- Maternal age over 30
- Maternal BMI over 24
- Longer duration of C-section
- Blood loss of over 400 ml
- Longer duration of urinary catheter use
Doctors and nurses should be aware of these risk factors and should be especially vigilant about monitoring for infection when a mother has one or more of these factors. Post-surgical infection can result from negligence on the part of the medical team, whose action or failure to act may constitute medical malpractice. Negligence by doctors, nurses, or medical staff may involve:
- Failure to follow proper hand-washing protocols
- Failure to properly clean and sterilize surgical instruments
- Lack of proper care inserting or removing a urinary catheter
- Failure to adequately monitor the mother for signs of post-surgical infection
Maintaining adequate sanitation and regularly monitoring surgical patients is part of the standard of care. Violating that standard can lead to liability for OB/GYNs, nurses, hospitals, and other care providers.
Recognizing the Signs of Infection After a C-Section
Experiencing some discomfort after birth, especially a cesarean birth, is normal. However, some pain and other symptoms can indicate a developing infection. Your medical providers should have been on the lookout for signs of infection while you were in the hospital. Hospital-acquired infection (HAI) is a risk with any surgery, including C-section. Hospital-acquired infection is much more likely when sanitation procedures are not followed.
If you notice any of these symptoms while hospitalized, or after you are released from the hospital, contact your doctor or seek medical attention immediately.
Symptoms of infection after a C-section include:
- Worsening pain at or near the surgical site
- Redness at the surgical site
- Surgical wound site is opening or separating rather than closing
- Pus or other fluid oozing from your incision
- Cloudy urine
- High blood pressure
When caught early, most post-surgical infections can be treated successfully with antibiotics. However, the longer the infection has to take hold, the more likely that sepsis, which can be lethal, will develop. Sepsis is the body’s extreme response to infection, and it can develop rapidly. Caring for a newborn may make you feel as if your own health needs to take a back seat, at least temporarily. Unfortunately, post-surgical infection and sepsis do not go away on their own, and it’s important to take them seriously.
What Should I Do if I Develop an Infection After a C-Section?
We can’t emphasize this enough: seek prompt medical treatment. Don’t worry that you are overreacting. Even if you are, it’s better to err on the side of caution than to put off seeking care. Sepsis can cause multiple organ system failure and death within a day once it takes hold. This is one of the reasons that, as noted above, maternal mortality is so much higher after a C-section than a vaginal birth.
Once your infection is under control and you are on the mend, it’s time to think about what caused your infection and if it could have been prevented. Not all post-surgical infections are the result of negligence. But if your care providers were negligent, and that negligence caused your infection and damages, you may have a claim for medical malpractice.
Filing a medical malpractice claim accomplishes a couple of things. First, it can get you compensation for injury, pain, and suffering you experienced at what should have been one of the happiest times of your life. Second, it holds negligent medical personnel accountable and makes it less likely that someone else will have to suffer the way you did.
If you suffered an infection after a C-section, or lost a loved one due to such an infection, you should consult an experienced medical malpractice attorney. You may not know whether you have a malpractice claim, but an attorney can help you evaluate any potential claim in time to seek compensation. As with other medical malpractice claims, you have only a limited amount of time to file a claim. If you fail to do so, the opportunity is gone forever.
To learn more about infection after cesarean section, please contact Huegli Fraser to schedule a consultation.
The information in this blog post is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to be legal advice. You should not make a decision whether or not to contact a qualified medical malpractice attorney based upon the information in this blog post. No attorney-client relationship is formed nor should any such relationship be implied. If you require legal advice, please consult with a competent medical malpractice attorney licensed to practice in your jurisdiction.