Puerperal fever

Fever that lasts for more than 24 hours within the first 10 days after a woman has had a baby. Puerperal fever is due to an infection, most often of the placental site within the uterus. If the infection involves the bloodstream, it constitutes puerperal sepsis. Puerperal fever has gone by a number of different names including childbirth fever, childbed fever and postpartum fever. In Latin a "puerpera" is a woman in childbirth since "puer" means child and "parere" means to give birth. The puerperium is the time immediately after the delivery of a baby. Historical note: Three of the names most closely associated with puerperal fever are Alexander Gordon, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and Ignaz Philip Semmelweiss. Dr. Alexander Gordon (1752-1799) in Aberdeen, Scotland was the first to identify the cause of puerperal fever. In 1795, Gordon wrote: "I will not venture positively to assert that the Puerperal Fever and Erysipelas are precisely of the same specific nature... (but) that they are concomitant epidemics I have unquestionable proofs. For these two epidemics began in Aberdeen at the same time, and afterwards kept pace together; they arrived at their acme together, and they both ceased at the same time. After delivery the infectious matter is readily and copiously admitted by the numerous patulous orifices, which are open to imbibe it, by the separation of the placenta from the uterus." Gordon added that: "The disease seized such women only as were visited, or delivered by a practitioner...or nurse who has previously attended patients afflicted with the disease. It is a disagreeable declaration for me to mention that I was myself the means of carrying the infection to a great number of women." In 1843 Oliver Wendell Holmes (1809­-1894), Professor of Anatomy & Physiology at Harvard, wrote in his celebrated paper entitled "On the Contagiousness of Puerperal Fever" that: "...if one case of puerperal fever arises in a physician's practice there is an increased risk of a second, two cases suggest that the physician should do no obstetrics for at least a month, and three prima facie evidence that he is the source of the contagion." The Viennese physician Ignaz Philip Semmelweiss (1818-1862) provided proof of the cause of puerperal fever. ­In 1847 he ordered hand washing in chlorinated water before delivering infants and the mortality from childbed fever declined dramatically. Semmelweiss wrote that: "Puerperal fever is caused by conveyance to the pregnant woman of putrid particles derived from living organisms, through the agency of the examining fingers....... Consequently must I make my confession that God only knows the number of women whom I have consigned prematurely to the grave."

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puerperal fever n an abnormal condition that results from infection (as by streptococci) of the placental site following delivery or abortion and is characterized in mild form by fever of not over 100.4°F (38.0°C) but may progress to a localized endometritis or spread through the uterine wall and develop into peritonitis or pass into the bloodstream and produce sepsis called also childbed fever, puerperal sepsis

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an infectious, sometimes fatal, type of septicemia with fever, associated with childbirth; the focus of infection is the uterus, and the etiologic agent is frequently a streptococcus. Called also childbed f., and puerperal sepsis or septicemia.

Medical dictionary. 2011.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • puerperal fever — ► NOUN ▪ fever caused by uterine infection following childbirth. ORIGIN from Latin puer child, boy + parus bearing …   English terms dictionary

  • puerperal fever — n. sepsis sometimes occurring during childbirth: formerly caused a high mortality rate in maternity wards before aseptic techniques were established in the 19th cent …   English World dictionary

  • Puerperal fever — Streptococcus pyogenes (red stained spheres) is responsible for most cases of severe puerperal fever. It is commonly found in the throat and nasopharynx of otherwise healthy carriers, particularly during winter. Details: A pus specimen, viewed… …   Wikipedia

  • puerperal fever — Pathol. a systemic bacterial infection of the endometrium characterized by fever, rapid heartbeat, uterine tenderness, and malodorous discharge, chiefly occurring in women after childbirth, usually as the result of unsterile obstetric procedures …   Universalium

  • puerperal fever — noun Date: 1768 an abnormal condition that results from infection of the placental site following delivery or abortion and is characterized in mild form by fever but in serious cases the infection may spread through the uterine wall or pass into… …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • puerperal fever — noun A fever, following childbirth or abortion, due to infection of the uterus. Syn: childbed fever, puerperal sepsis …   Wiktionary

  • puerperal fever — noun fever caused by uterine infection following childbirth …   English new terms dictionary

  • puerperal fever — /pjuˌɜpərəl ˈfivə/ (say pyooh.erpuhruhl feevuh) noun an infection occurring during the puerperium; childbed fever …   Australian English dictionary

  • puerperal fever — noun serious form of septicemia contracted by a woman during childbirth or abortion (usually attributable to unsanitary conditions); formerly widespread but now uncommon • Syn: ↑childbed fever • Hypernyms: ↑blood poisoning, ↑septicemia,… …   Useful english dictionary

  • puerperal fever — (pu er per al) An acute, febrile condition following childbirth; it is characterized by infection of the uterus and/or adjacent regions and is caused by streptococci …   Dictionary of microbiology

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