Septic Abortion

Definition - What does Septic Abortion mean?

A septic abortion is a medical emergency that refers to either a spontaneous miscarriage or medically induced termination of pregnancy that becomes complicated by the infection of the retained placental and/or fetal tissue.

FertilitySmarts explains Septic Abortion

An abortion or miscarriage becomes septic following the entry of bacteria into the uterus. The infection first involves the inner lining of the uterus and the retained products of conception (placenta and fetus). This infection then spreads to the outer linings of the uterus. In advanced cases, the bacteria gain access to the abdominal cavity and the bloodstream (a state called as bacteremia) and eventually spread to the body organs, giving rise to the signs and symptoms of sepsis.

Factors that put a woman at risk for sustaining a septic abortion include:

  • The period of rupture of the fetal membranes surrounding the unborn child going unnoticed
  • Medical or surgical induction of abortion using unsafe or contaminated tools or products like soaps, scissors etc.
  • Self-induced abortion using non-sterile methods
  • Presence of a sexually transmitted infection such as chlamydia
  • As a complication of pregnancy with intrauterine device (IUD)

A septic abortion is likely if a pregnant woman develops a fever with chills, abdominal pain, and vaginal bleeding with or without the passage of the products of pregnancy (i.e. placenta and fetal parts). It is a life-threatening condition if not treated promptly as the woman can go into a state of shock due to the widespread infection and organ dysfunction (or sepsis). Septic shock results in mental confusion, extremely low blood pressures, low body temperatures or spiking fevers, and reduced urine output. Kidney failure, fatal bleeding, and formation of scar tissue in the intestinal and pelvic organs leading to intestinal blockage and infertility are some of the potential consequences of untreated septic abortion.

To evaluate a suspected case of septic abortion, the doctor performs an ultrasound, which can also help reveal the presence of the pregnancy materials in the uterus.

Vigorous hydration and antibiotics are used to treat women with septic abortion. If an ultrasound reveals the presence of any residual products of conception in the uterus, the doctor will perform a D&C (dilatation and curettage) to remove them.

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