Merck Manual

Please confirm that you are not located inside the Russian Federation

honeypot link

Septic Abortion

By

Antonette T. Dulay

, MD, Main Line Health System

Medically Reviewed Oct 2022
VIEW PROFESSIONAL VERSION

Septic abortion is a serious infection of the uterus that occurs shortly before, during, or shortly after an abortion or a miscarriage.

  • Septic abortions usually develop when untrained practitioners use nonsterile techniques to remove the contents of the uterus after an abortion or a miscarriage.

  • Septic abortions cause chills, fever, vaginal discharge, vaginal bleeding, and a rapid heart rate typically within 2 days after an abortion or a miscarriage.

  • Blood cultures are done to identify the microorganism causing the infection and thus help doctors choose the appropriate antibiotics.

  • The contents of the uterus are removed as soon as possible, and the infection is treated with antibiotics.

Septic abortions usually develop when nonsterile techniques are used to remove the contents of the uterus after an abortion or a miscarriage. Septic abortions are much more common when untrained practitioners (or the pregnant woman herself) do the procedure without using sterile techniques and/or having adequate surgical equipment. Untrained practitioners may puncture the uterus during the procedure. These circumstances usually arise when laws, lack of access to health care, or personal issues prevent women from getting professional medical care.

Septic abortions may develop when fragments from the pregnancy remain in the uterus after an abortion or a miscarriage and become infected. Septic abortion is a medical emergency and can result in serious problems or death in the mother.

Symptoms of Septic Abortion

Symptoms of septic abortion typically appear within 24 to 48 hours after abortion. They include chills, fever, vaginal discharge, a rapid heart rate, and often vaginal bleeding. The cervix may dilate, and a miscarriage, if one has not already occurred, is possible. If the uterus is punctured during an abortion, women usually have severe abdominal pain.

Diagnosis of Septic Abortion

  • A doctor's evaluation

  • Blood tests

  • Ultrasonography

Doctors can usually diagnose septic abortion based on the woman's circumstances and symptoms. If septic abortion seems likely, doctors send a sample of blood to a laboratory to be cultured (placed in a substance that encourages microorganisms to grow). This technique helps doctors identify the microorganism causing the infection and thus determine which antibiotics would be effective.

Ultrasonography is done to check for fragments from the pregnancy that may remain in the uterus.

Treatment of Septic Abortion

  • Antibiotics

  • Removal of the contents of the uterus

If women have symptoms of a septic abortion, the contents of the uterus are removed as soon as possible, and women are treated with antibiotics (for example, clindamycin plus gentamicin with or without ampicillin), given intravenously. Usually, the contents of the uterus are surgically removed through the vagina (called surgical evacuation Surgical abortion Induced abortion is the intentional ending of a pregnancy by surgery or drugs. A pregnancy may be ended by surgically removing the contents of the uterus or by taking certain drugs. Complications... read more , using dilation and evacuation [D & E).

Drugs Mentioned In This Article

Generic Name Select Brand Names
Cleocin, Cleocin Ovules, Cleocin Pediatric, Cleocin T, CLIN, Clindacin ETZ, Clindacin-P, Clinda-Derm , Clindagel, ClindaMax, ClindaReach, Clindesse, Clindets, Evoclin, PledgaClin, XACIATO
Garamycin, Genoptic, Genoptic SOP, Gentacidin, Gentafair, Gentak , Gentasol, Ocu-Mycin
Principen
NOTE: This is the Consumer Version. DOCTORS: VIEW PROFESSIONAL VERSION
VIEW PROFESSIONAL VERSION
quiz link

Test your knowledge

Take a Quiz!
iOS ANDROID
iOS ANDROID
iOS ANDROID
TOP