Uterine infections may go undetected because they may not initially, if ever, cause women any pain or discomfort. Routine gynecological examinations are recommended, particularly for women contemplating getting pregnant. If you have a uterine infection during pregnancy, you can pass the infection to your newborn during labor and delivery.
All pregnant women should be screened for Group B streptococcus (GBS or Group B strep), according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) because this uterine infection can infect newborn babies. If you have GBS, you may not be aware of it because it may not make you sick. GBS lives in the lower genital or the gastrointestinal system along with bacteria that is generally harmless. The only time this bacterium results in illness is when a woman is pregnant and sometimes in the elderly. If a pregnant woman has GBS in her vagina or her rectum when she gives birth, there is a 1 in 200 chance that her baby will become infected. If a pregnant woman has GBS and has a fever during labor, goes into pre-term labor (before 37 weeks gestation) or her water breaks 18 hours or longer before giving birth, this increases the risks that her infant will be infected, according to the March of Dimes.
Women can get cervicitis, which is an inflammation of the cervix, which is the narrow end of the uterus that opens into the vagina. This condition is the result of sexually transmitted diseases, including chlamydia and gonorrhea, according to Riversideonline.com.
The cervix is lined with two types of cells, including squamous cells, which are skin-like, flat cells, and glandular cells that secrete mucus. The organisms that can cause vaginitis can also cause cervicitis. Normally, the cervix serves as a barrier and keeps viruses and bacteria from entering the uterus, but sometimes these agents get in anyway and result in a uterine infection.
When the lining of the uterus become infected, it is called endometritis. This occurs in 1 percent to 3 percent of women following a vaginal birth and 10 percent to 30 percent of women who have a caesarian delivery. If multiple vaginal exams are conducted while a woman is in labor, this can increase her odds of getting a uterine infection. If a part of the uterine membranes or the placenta stay in a woman after birth, this increases her chances of getting an infection as does the use of forceps. In addition, women who are anemic during pregnancy have less immunity and may get an infection, according to Birth.com.au.
A woman with early onset infection will have symptoms within two to three days of giving birth. If you have late onset, symptoms may not appear until three to five days after birth and may not crop up until six weeks post-delivery. Endometritis can spread to the fallopian tubes, which can render a woman infertile. It can also cause sepsis, which is an infection of the bloodstream that can be life-threatening.
Indicators that you have a uterine infection include heavy bleeding, headache, sweating, shaking (called the “rigors”), fever, lower abdominal pain, foul smelling vaginal blood or a greenish-yellow pus-like discharge from the vagina.