Dr Gqada on when to worry about postpartum discharge and infections

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A women describing her symptoms and how she feels to a medical doctor.
A women describing her symptoms and how she feels to a medical doctor.

Vaginal discharge is a normal, healthy part of being a woman, and is usually caused by hormonal changes during women's reproductive years.

Mediclinic tells us that vaginal discharge can be considered abnormal when it occurs in large amounts, changes colour, is thicker than usual, has a strong odour or is accompanied by other vaginal symptoms such as itching, burning or pain.

If you experience any of these symptoms, then it is recommended that you speak to your doctor. 

Parent24 chatted to Dr Noxolo Gqada, a healthcare practitioner, specialising as a General Practitioner at Ingress healthcare. She talked to us about the changes that happen to women after birth, and when you should worry about infection.

When we asked her if women should be worried about vaginal discharge or bleeding after birth, she told us that vaginal discharge or bleeding continues immediately after birth and assured us that it is normal.

The different stages of discharge after birth

According to Dr Gqada this happens in different stages. The first stage is a red-brown discharge that lasts for the first few days following delivery. Thereafter, the vaginal discharge becomes more watery in consistency; this lasts for two to three weeks. Ultimately, the discharge returns to a yellowish-white colour.

Should you be concerned about this?

Dr Gqada says that vaginal discharge should not concern you, if you monitor the changes. However, should anything seem out of the ordinary, she suggests that you should see your obstetrician gynaecologist for assessment and evaluation.

Read: What every woman needs to know about fibroids

She warns that routine douching of the vagina or the insertion of creams/topical treatments is not recommended, in general but particularly during the postpartum period. 

When should you worry about infections after delivery?

The typical signs and symptoms of infection post-delivery may include fever, tiredness, and a faster than normal heart rate.Several possible sources of infection need to be kept in mind, she says, and there are three common ones to moms after birth.

1. Wound infection

The first one is the wound sepsis infection, signs of this include an offensive-smelling discharge or bleeding. Some patients may present with a fever, however this is a late sign.

This infection could be either in the abdominal c-section wound or from the vagina – whether there was a tear or an episiotomy - or even if there was none.

2. Urinary tract infection

The second type of infection is urinary tract infection. Here a patient may have symptoms of bladder urinary symptoms such as burning when urinating, passing of small amounts of urine when the bladder feels much fuller, pain with urination, and the sensation of incomplete emptying of the bladder. 

Also read: Can using different birth control methods affect your future fertility?

3. Lower respiratory tract infection

The lower respiratory infection is the third type of infection that is common to moms after delivery, it is also called a chest infection. Dr Gqada tells us that, in this case, a patient may present symptoms like a productive (wet) or non-productive (dry) cough.

She suggests that if you experience any of these symptoms you should seek medical help. In order to ascertain the source of the infection.

Is there treatment for these infections?

Dr Gqada tells us that in order to begin treatment, a full medical examination is required to find the source of the infection and necessary treatment.

Dr Gqada also shared some ways to help prevent infections:

1. Clean and care for wounds, as per the Sister or Doctor’s instruction on discharge from the hospital

2. Empty bladder regularly

3. Vaginal hygiene - wipe from front-to-back and not vice-versa

4. Monitor both the C-section wound and vaginal discharge for change in colour and odour.

5. Early mobilisation, as pain allows (avoid being bed-bound)

It’s vital for mothers to take care of themselves post-delivery and consult their health providers when they observe something out of the ordinary, because prevention is better than cure. 

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