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Postpartum Infections

By Julie S. Moldenhauer, MD, Associate Professor of Clinical Obstetrics and Gynecology in Surgery, The Garbose Family Special Delivery Unit, The Center for Fetal Diagnosis and Treatment, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia; Attending Physician, The University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine

Immediately after delivery, the woman’s temperature often increases. A temperature of 100.4° F (38° C) or higher during the first 12 hours after delivery could indicate an infection but may not. Nonetheless, in such cases, the woman should be evaluated by her doctor or midwife. A postpartum infection is usually diagnosed after 24 hours have passed since delivery and the woman has had a temperature of 100.4° F or higher on two occasions at least 6 hours apart.

Postpartum infections seldom occur because doctors try to prevent or treat conditions that can lead to infections. However, infections, if they develop, may be serious. Thus, if a woman has a temperature of more than 100.4° F at any time during the first week after delivery, she should call the doctor.

Postpartum infections may be

  • Directly related to delivery (occurring in the uterus or the area around the uterus)

  • Indirectly related to delivery (occurring in the kidneys, bladder, breasts, or lungs)