The number of cesarean deliveries across the world has increased in the past few decades (1). Around 3-15% of women who undergo a c-section tend to develop an infection around the surgical site. The infection can be treated when diagnosed in time, which makes it less worrisome.
In this MomJunction post, we tell you more about the c-section scar infection, its types, causes, treatment methods, and ways to prevent it.
What Is A C-Section Wound Infection?
A c-section wound infection, also known as post-cesarean section wound infection, is a bacterial infection that develops after cesarean or abdominal delivery. It is a bacterial load that occurs at the incision site (2).
There are two types of c-section scar infections:
- Cellulitis, a skin infection that is usually caused by common bacteria called Staphylococcus aureus or S. aureus. It invades the tissues from inside and spreads quickly to the outer skin (around the surgical site) resulting in swelling, redness, and pain, although there is no formation of pus. It is the most common infection that occurs after cesarean delivery (3).
- Abscess or abdominal wound is an infection that could occur when the bacteria gets into the skin through the surgical incision. This is a rare condition that results in pain and swelling, with some pus oozing from the surgical site. The bacterial abscess could also lead to endometritis (4) (5).
It is essential to treat the infection as soon as possible to prevent spreading of the bacterial load from the surgery site. Also, it would hamper the quality of life of the mother and increase the period of her stay at the hospital.
Read further to know what could cause the c-section scar infection.
What Are The Causes Of Infection After Cesarean Birth?
You could develop a c-section incision infection due to any of the following causes.
- Obesity increases the risk of c-section wound infections. Increase in weight also increases the risk of wound complications (6).
- Repeated cesarean sections could also be one of the causes of postoperative complications such as wound infections. Hence, preoperative and postoperative monitoring after the surgery is a must (7).
- Presence of intra-amniotic infection or chorioamnionitis could also result in cesarean wound infection (8).
- Some other causes that result in c-section wound infection could be ruptured membranes, longer labor before the c-section, surgeon’s incompetence, emergency delivery, and several vaginal examinations (9) (10).
Knowing the symptoms of a c-section infection can help you start the treatment in time.
What Are The Signs Of A Post-Cesarean Wound Infection?
The following are a few symptoms of an infection after c-section.
- Fever for several days or with a temperature higher than 100.4 F can be one of the symptoms of a c-section infection. You could think that it is a typical flu symptom, but it is not if your temperature is not coming down to normal even after about seven days. Furthermore, chills accompanied by fever could also be a symptom of a post-cesarean section infection (11).
- Swelling, redness, or increased pain around the incision or surgical site. Tenderness around the region could also be a sign (11).
- Any fluid coming out from the incision, an opening of the incision, and smelly vaginal discharge are also c-section infection symptoms (12).
- Discomfort or pain in the lower abdomen region for several days after the surgery. Also, you could experience warmth, pain, redness, and swelling in your lower legs (13).
- Heavy bleeding and difficulty while urinating are also signs of a c-section infection. In addition to this, you could experience pain and a burning sensation while urinating, and blood in the urine if you have developed an infection (13).
If you have noticed any of these symptoms, consult your doctor for a proper diagnosis.
How Is A Post-Cesarean Wound Infection Diagnosed?
The doctor would check for tenderness, fever, swelling, or any other sign that could indicate an infection. Daily inspection of the incision site is the most vital part of the postoperative diagnosis. However, most of the infections start to appear after a week of surgery. Therefore, doctors advice new mothers to be attentive to these signs. If you see the symptoms, visit the doctor for further diagnosis and timely treatment (14).
How To Treat A Wound Infection?
A c-section infection can be treated using (10):
- Antibiotics: Doctors usually recommend treating cesarean wound infections such as cellulitis with antibiotics. The medicines prescribed vary for purulent and nonpurulent cellulitis. Tetracycline, trimethoprim, and clindamycin are prescribed for purulent cellulitis, while cefadroxil, clindamycin, and dicloxacillin are used for nonpurulent cellulitis.
- Drainage: In the case of purulent drainage, when the pus is oozing out from the wound, doctors go for the drainage treatment. They use medical tools to make an incision and release the dying tissues if any. After the procedure is done, the doctor examines the region again.
- Dressing the wound: Some infection conditions may require dressing the scar regularly to close the wound that may have any deep cut or flaw.
The treatment can be effective and your recovery faster when you follow a few tips.
How to take care of a C-Section Infection Wound?
Here are some things that you need to take care of.
- Take the antibiotics and other prescribed medications regularly to treat the redness, swelling, and pain.
- Go for regular cleaning and dressing of the wound if necessary.
- It is important to take plenty of rest to recover faster. Also, avoid straining your abdomen or back area.
- Avoid applying any lotions or creams that may contain chemicals harmful to your skin. And wear loose and lightweight clothes that don’t rub on your wounds.
- You can always get medical care from your doctor if the wound doesn’t seem to heal or if you experience more pain from the surgical site.
- Consume healthy food and lots of liquids.
Keep reading to learn how you can prevent an infection or minimize its risk.
Can You Prevent C-Section Wound Infection?
You may not be able to entirely prevent the infection after a c-section , but you can take certain precautions to avoid any complications.
- Maintain a healthy weight: Obesity is one of the risk factors of a c-section wound infection (6). Hence, pregnant women should try maintaining their weight during pregnancy by exercising or consuming a healthy diet.
- Control diabetes: Gestational diabetes could cause more complications related to the infection after a c-section (15). Therefore, pregnant women should try keeping their glucose levels in check.
- Treat other conditions/diseases: If you are suffering from any disease/illness or have any pre-existing conditions that may trigger complications with a c-section infection, try to treat them before the due date.
C-section infections are curable with proper medical care. If you notice any symptoms, see that you visit your doctor and get a diagnosis done as soon as you can. Also, take proper care and consult your doctor when in doubt to minimize the risk of infection.
Do you have any c-section infection experiences to share? How did you treat it? Share with us in the comment section.
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3. The Mother With An Infection: Infectious Diseases; UTMB Neonatology Manual
4. Skin or Soft Tissue Abscess; University Health Services: The University of Texas at Austin
5. S. Hamadeh et al.; Journal of Gynecology and Neonatal Biology (2017)
6. S. N. Conner; Maternal Obesity and Risk of Post-Cesarean Wound Complications; American Journal of Perinatol (2014)
7. G. Choudhary, M. K. Patell, and H. A. Sulieman; The effects of repeated caesarean sections on maternal and fetal outcomes; Saudi Journal of Medicine & Medical Sciences (2015)
8. K. E. Diebold; Risk factors for wound complications following cesarean delivery; University of Iowa Research Online (2014)
9. Jido TA, Garba ID. Surgical-site infection following cesarean section in Kano, Nigeria. Ann Med Health Sci Res 2012;2:33-6.
10. T. Kawakita and H. J. Landy; Surgical site infections after cesarean delivery: epidemiology, prevention and treatment; Maternal Health, Neonatology and Perinatology (2017)
11. Cesarean Wound Complications; Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology Cesarean Wound Complications: University of Michigan Health System
12. What to know after having your baby (if you had c-section); UNM Hospitals
13. When to call your doctor after cesarean; Health Pages (2018)
14. S. Zuarez-Easton, N. Zafran, G. Garmi, and R. Salim; Postcesarean wound infection: prevalence, impact, prevention, and management challenges; International Journal of Women’s Health (2017)
15. E. T. Martin et al.; Diabetes and Risk of Surgical Site Infection: A systematic review and meta-analysis; Infection Control & Hospital Epidemiology (2015)