On Sunday the 4th of September 2022, after an induced labour, I gave birth to my daughter with forceps assistance and having an episiotomy to minimise tearing.
Around 4 hours after the birth I began having increasingly intense pain which the doctor diagnosed as internal bleeding and told me I would have to go in for surgery.
I was placed under general anaesthetic and a 600ml Haematoma was drained. The doctors informed me after the surgery that the bleeding was due to a blood vessel that had been stitched up after the episiotomy.
In the days following the surgery I began developing symptoms of sepsis including fever, inability to urinate, low blood pressure, fast heart rate and pain. The significance of these symptoms was not recognised and nobody asked “could it be sepsis?”
Despite my symptoms and having several risk factors for sepsis (gestational diabetes, epidural, surgery) I was discharged on the Friday afternoon. By 6pm the same day I was feeling very unwell, had a massive bleed and returned to the hospital. An ultrasound showed that I had over 700ml of urine retained in my bladder and I was asked to stay in overnight.
On Saturday morning my symptoms had worsened. I was told that I had a normal temperature and that the chills and other symptoms were due to my milk coming in. I asked the nurse to please test my temperature in a different area or on a different machine, as I was sure that I had a temperature. When I was retested I had a temperature of 39.4. The doctor told me that I had sepsis and that I would need to begin IV antibiotics immediately. After a total of 5 days in hospital on IV antibiotics I was sent home with my newborn baby and a 10 day course of oral antibiotics.
The swabs that were taken to find the source of infection all came back negative so the cause of sepsis could not be determined. On discharge from the hospital I was extremely anxious which culminated in my developing PTSD. In the year that has followed I have managed to overcome my PTSD by having Trauma therapy and am now able to focus my time on bonding with my baby.
My experience shows that sepsis is very insidious and can present in many ways which often causes confusion and late recognition. Public awareness and health professional education are key to its prevention.
So, remember just as “could it be sepsis?”