What is childbed fever?

Mum in Black and White

What are the symptoms? »
Childbed fever: the facts »

Childbed fever is an infection of the womb in new mothers which can lead to septicaemia.

Historically, childbed fever (puerperal sepsis) was the leading cause of maternal death in the UK but, due in part to antibiotics, cases have declined significantly since the 1930s and the Confidential Enquiry into Maternal and Child Health reported no deaths attributable to sepsis between 1982 and 1984.

Since then, deaths have increased and septicaemia now accounts for 14% of direct causes of maternal death.1

In western medicine today childbed fever is unlikely to be caused by poor hygiene - although historically it was the lack of hygiene standards that led to its spread in epidemic proportions.

It is a very serious form of septicaemia, caused by organisms such as the Group A streptococcus (GAS) bacteria which, if untreated, may lead to toxic shock syndrome, multi-organ failure and death.

Although occasionally caused by retained placenta, most cases have no obvious underlying cause. A perfect, complication free delivery is no guarantee of safety from childbed fever, and anybody can be affected.

What are the symptoms? »
Childbed fever: the facts »

  1. Lewis, G (ed) 2007. The Confidential Enquiry into Maternal and Child Health (CEMACH). Saving Mothers' Lives: reviewing maternal deaths to make motherhood safer - 2003-2005. The Seventh Report on Confidential Enquiries into Maternal Deaths in the United Kingdom. London: CEMACH.


What is childbed fever?

Childbed fever is an infection of the womb in new mothers which can lead to septicaemia. If left untreated infection will cause organ failure and death - even in young, fit mothers.
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What are the symptoms? »
Childbed fever: the facts »

What's the aim?

We would like every parent and every midwife and doctor to know that childbed fever is still a very real threat to a mother's life.
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Can I help? »

Who is Jessica?

Jessica Palmer was a Mum. She died in June 2004, at 34 years old, of childbed fever caused by Group A streptococcus.
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This website contains general information about childbed fever. The information is not complete or comprehensive. You should not rely on the information on this website as an alternative to medical advice from your doctor or healthcare provider. If you have any specific questions about childbed fever (or any other medical condition) you should consult your doctor or other healthcare provider; and if you think you may be suffering from childbed fever (or any other medical condition) you should seek immediately medical attention. You should never delay seeking medical advice, disregard medical advice, or discontinue medical treatment because of information on this website.
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