Infections are a possible complication after a surgical procedure like a c-section. They can be painful and drain your energy. Recognizing them and getting help immediately can provide a faster c-section recovery.
Most c-section infections are easily treatable but the idea is to simply avoid them if you can. After having a c-section it’s important that you take care of yourself and stay aware of the types of infections that can occur and how to recognize them for getting the appropriate treatment.
The most common infection will occur at your incision site. Cutting into the skin gives bacteria a way to enter the body. The skin is prepped with a surgical solution before surgery but infections can still occur.
Bacterial infections such as staphylococcus or streptococcus can enter the incision and cause a problem. With a c-section, you are dealing not only with the skin incision but also the uterine incision that has been stitched up. Both have to heal without infection for a satisfactory result.
If your c-section was unscheduled it more than likely occurred after your water already broke. When the sac is opened, bacteria have another way into your body. Any bacteria entering here can increase the risk of infection in the uterine membrane after a cesarean section. Some women can develop endometriosis, which is an infection of the endometrium, or inner layer of the uterus.
Another type of infection that can occur is a bladder infection. When you are prepped for a c-section, a catheter is inserted in your bladder. The catheter drains your bladder during surgery. With the bladder decompressed, it is not sticking up in the surgeon’s way when he is performing the operation. It is less likely to be nicked or cut when it is decompressed.
You will urinate through a catheter for about 24 hours; however the catheter provides a route for bacteria to enter. The nurse will make sure that the catheter stays clean and the urine bag is emptied, however infections have been known to occur. A bladder infection can be identified by painful urination (when the catheter is out) or blood in the urine.
An infection in the bladder can extend all the way from the bladder to the kidneys. Kidney infections could occur also in post c-section women.
Infections can occur in other places as well. During the c-section it is possible that other organs could be nicked or harmed in the course of the surgery. These injuries can result in infections. The rate of such infections is low but it is a possible result of a surgical procedure.
How to Identify C-section Infections
The most noticeable infections are those that you can see. With an infection at the surgical site, you may notice swelling, redness or fluid coming from the incision. The fluid could be blood if you have reopened your incision in some way. Fluid that looks more like pus is a good indication that there could be an infection in progress.
The area could be warm and/or tender to the touch. If you have staples in your skin, the area will be tender but that will go away as it heals. This tenderness is a result of the infection process. You might also complain of abdominal pain. Of course any such changes should be reported to your doctor immediately.
Remember, not only was your skin incised during the procedure but also your uterus. Those stitches also have to heal in order for your uterus to return to normal.
You won’t see the same signs such as redness if an infection occurs in your uterus but you might experience abdominal pain. As the body’s white cells rush to fight the infection, you’ll develop a fever and chills as a result. If your fever is over 100 degrees and there are no signs of problems at the incision site, something is going on inside your body.
An infection in the bladder could mean painful urination or blood in the urine. Foul-smelling vaginal discharge also indicates that an infection is lurking somewhere such as the uterus.
Treating C-section Infections
An incision that reopens because of getting back to your routine too fast could mean prolonged recovery or another trip to the operating room.
Stay aware of any changes in your c-section incision. Any swelling, redness, pus or dehiscence (the wound reopening), should be reported to your doctor immediately. If these signs are accompanied by fever, abdominal pain and/or chills, an infection is probably the likely cause.
Your doctor can culture the wound with a swab or needle aspiration of fluid to see what type of bacteria you have. To treat the infection, the doctor will prescribe antibiotics. Antibiotics should take care of the bacterial infections. If the wound reopens and becomes infected you may need another surgical procedure as well as antibiotics.
Oral antibiotics will do the job but IV antibiotics may be needed in some cases. The doctor will decide what course to take. Be sure to mention that you are breastfeeding as this will affect the type of antibiotic given to you.
If you have an infection in your bladder or anywhere in your urinary tract you might notice pain when urinating, bloody urine or even have difficulty using the bathroom. Contact your doctor immediately. Once he has diagnosed the problem, he can prescribe a course of treatment which will include some type of antibiotic.
The antibiotics used will target the specific infection organism. Special care needs to be taken in order for the infection to go away. Don’t stop taking your antibiotic just because you feel better. It is important to take the entire course of antibiotics to make sure that the infection is completely gone and doesn’t reoccur.
C-sections carry with them the same risks as any surgical procedure. You can acquire an infection from incision sites both internal and external. If you recognize that something is not right, contact your doctor immediately.