What is abortion with septic shock?
Abortion with septic shock is a
medical emergency. An abortion is
a procedure that ends a pregnancy. Septic
shock occurs when an infection overtakes your body and causes very
low blood pressure.
Septic shock can affect anyone susceptible to the germs that cause
infection. When linked with abortion, septic shock can be a dangerous
Types of abortions
There are several types of abortions:
- A spontaneous abortion (miscarriage)
occurs when pregnancy tissue is passed from the body. There are
technically two types of spontaneous abortions: “complete,” in which all
the pregnancy tissue is passed and no intervention is needed, and
“incomplete,” in which only part of the pregnancy tissue is passed and it usually
does require intervention.
- A surgical abortion is the
removal of the fetus and placenta from the woman’s uterus. The doctor
typically uses a vacuum to extract the pregnancy material.
- A medical abortion uses
prescribed medications. These medications help the mother pass the fetus
and related tissue. The result is similar to a miscarriage.
- A self-induced abortion is
done by the mother herself. This term includes both abortions conducted
through legal, over-the-counter medication and those performed through
unregulated, often dangerous methods.
Symptoms of abortion
with septic shock
Septic shock is a medical emergency. If you recently had an abortion
and experience any of the following symptoms, seek medical help immediately:
high or very low body temperature
pale arms and legs
of confusion, restlessness, or fatigue
blood pressure, especially when standing
pounding heart rate
rapid breathing with shortness of breath
Causes of abortion with septic shock
Septic shock often occurs after the abortion procedure is completed.
It strikes when your body becomes contaminated with a bacterial infection.
In most cases, the infection stays in a specific area. However, in
more severe cases, the infection enters your bloodstream and travels throughout
your body. This is called a systemic
reaction. The resulting condition is called sepsis.
Your body’s initial reaction to sepsis typically involves very low or
very high body temperatures. In addition, sepsis causes:
high or very low white blood cell count
As sepsis weakens your body’s immune responses, your organs begin to
fail. When sepsis worsens so that your blood pressure drops dangerously low and
is immune to treatment, the condition is called septic shock.
In abortions, two main factors can contribute to the onset of sepsis
and ultimately, septic shock. They are:
- an incomplete abortion: pieces of
the pregnancy tissue remain in the body after a spontaneous or induced
abortion, both medical and surgical
- bacterial infection in
the uterus during a surgical or self-induced abortion
Risk factors for
abortion with septic shock
Your risk for septic shock is increased in situations where bacteria
are more likely to enter your bloodstream. Having any surgery or medical
procedure puts you at an increased risk for septic shock.
When medical devices are inserted into your body, the device can
introduce bacteria. This makes infection and sepsis more likely. The longer the
device is in your body, the higher your risk for infection.
In a surgical abortion, the doctor uses a vacuum with a hollow tube to
remove the fetus and placenta from the womb. Medical devices, such as
catheters, drainage tubes, or breathing tubes can put you at a similar risk of
The risk for septic shock is significantly increased in self-induced
abortion, where medical instruments are not used. There is less ability to
prevent germs from spreading because many of the common tools are everyday
household items and are not sterile.
In addition, having certain underlying conditions prior to an abortion
can make you more susceptible to septic shock. They include having a chronic condition
such as diabetes or a weakened immune system.
Most medical abortion regimens recommend a follow-up ultrasound after
the abortion has occurred. This examination can help determine if any of the
pregnancy materials remain.
Complications of abortion with septic shock
If not treated promptly, septic shock can be fatal. It can cause organ
failure and damage virtually any part of your body.
Typical complications include:
(body tissues die due to loss of blood)
In cases where septic shock is caused by a septic abortion, a total
hysterectomy may be necessary to remove the source of the infection. A total
hysterectomy removes the uterus, cervix, fallopian tubes, and both ovaries.
Diagnosis of abortion
with septic shock
A diagnosis of septic shock can be confirmed with laboratory tests:
blood test can identify bacteria in the bloodstream. Your white blood count,
blood oxygen level, and organ functions will also be checked.
from your urine, cerebrospinal fluid, and lung mucus will be cultured and
tested for bacteria. Tissue samples from wounds may be tested.
scans may be performed to identify residual pregnancy matter,
obstructions, perforations, or foreign bodies.
chest X-ray may be done to check for fluid in your lungs or pneumonia.
electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) may be done to identify abnormal heart
rhythms. An EKG monitors your heart rate. Electrodes are taped to your
chest to send the sound of your heart to the monitor. This can help
determine whether the heart’s blood supply is affected.
Septic shock is a medical emergency that must be treated immediately.
Because of the urgency, treatment often begins before the test results can
confirm the diagnosis. If you have signs of septic shock after an abortion, you
must be admitted immediately to an intensive care unit.
Successful treatment for septic shock is centered on two goals:
protection of the vital organs and removal of the source of the infection.
Antibiotics are given first. Test results identifying the specific
bacteria that are causing sepsis can take a few days. To improve the chances of
killing the bacteria, two or three antibiotics may be combined. Typical
antibiotic treatment involves a combination of:
The treatment can be refined once the specific bacteria are identified.
Your chances of surviving septic shock increase when you receive antibiotics
soon after the abortion.
Your treatment may include:
ventilation (breathing machine)
(to increase blood pressure)
(IV) fluids (to increase fluid in the bloodstream and blood pressure)
monitoring (evaluation of heart and lung pressure levels)
In some cases, surgery is necessary. A complete hysterectomy may be
performed if the infection is caused by matter from an abortion.
In some cases, a laparotomy may be performed. A laparotomy is an incision in the
abdominal wall that allows for quick access to the abdominal cavity. This may
be needed if your physician suspects the infection is caused by:
- bowel injury
Septic shock, regardless of the source, has a high mortality (death) rate.
Specific circumstances can affect successful treatment. These include:
of organ failure
of the start of medical treatment
How to prevent
Many cases of septic shock can’t be anticipated or prevented. You can
reduce your risk by following these precautions:
with a licensed physician or clinic to pursue an elective abortion.
the directions exactly as provided for a medical abortion.
attempt a self-induced abortion.
aware of the signs of bacterial infection after any type of abortion.
treatment for an infection as soon as possible.