Childbed fever: the facts

Childbed fever (also called puerperal fever or puerperal sepsis) is a treatable illness that kills mothers. It is defined as infection of the uterus following the birth of a child. This infection, if unchecked, may spread into the bloodstream to cause septicaemia (blood poisoning) - a life-threatening illness that progresses in hours, not days, and may kill swiftly.

  • Childbed fever is rare, but is still a threat to mothers
  • Childbed fever is feared by every GP and midwife who has ever seen it
  • Septicaemia accounts for 14% of direct causes of maternal death1
  • Up to 30% of us may carry a bacterium that can cause it
  • Septicaemia can develop very rapidly
  • Septicaemia can usually be treated quickly and effectively if detected early enough
  • Most cases occur after delivery but septicaemia can also occur after a miscarriage, or during pregnancy or labour
  • Being aware of the symptoms could save your life
  • It is not a disease of the past
  • It is not a hospital acquired infection (HAI) or a 'superbug'
  • It is not caused by poor hygiene
  • Even a healthy immune system will not beat it
  • Delivering naturally and easily, without any complications does not eliminate the risk
  • Being young and healthy doesn't make you 'safe'
  • If you have a home birth, it doesn’t make you 'safe'
  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.
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.