One group at particular risk is pregnant women and new mothers – maternal sepsis is now one of the leading causes of maternal death worldwide, claiming the lives of 13 women in every 100,000 births in the UK. Studies have also shown that children of mothers who suffer from sepsis have a higher chance of dying in the first year of their lives.
September is Sepsis Awareness Month, with national charities, medical and legal professionals bringing this dangerous but often underestimated condition into the public conversation.
A brief guide to the signs of sepsis for new mothers
New mothers should be very aware of how they feel after giving birth; a faster heart-rate or breathing rate, feelings of fever or dizziness may be signs that something is wrong. It is important to convey these symptoms to your doctor and make sure your voice is heard.
Sepsis awareness is particularly important for mothers who have 'co-morbidities' (other, pre-existing medical conditions), as this has been shown to increase the risk of developing a serious infection. Other risk factors include mothers who are anaemic, overweight or whose babies are delivered by caesarean section.
How should medical staff monitor sepsis?
Medical staff should be trained to follow sepsis 'toolkits', which are guides identifying the warning signs of the condition. Pulse and breathing rate, body temperature and white blood cell count are some of the vital signs that should raise suspicions of sepsis if the stray outside certain ranges. Tests should be taken, and the patient should be carefully monitored.
What can I do if I have been affected by sepsis?
Failure to diagnose sepsis, and failure to treat it once it has been identified, is one of the most significant causes of death from the condition, particularly among new and expectant mothers.