Fever, puerperal
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."

Medical dictionary. 2011.

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  • 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… …   Medical dictionary

  • Fever — (also known as pyrexia, from the Greek pyretos meaning fire, or a febrile response, from the Latin word febris , meaning fever, and archaically known as ague) is a frequent medical sign that describes an increase in internal body temperature to… …   Wikipedia

  • 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

  • fever — feverless, adj. /fee veuhr/, n. 1. an abnormal condition of the body, characterized by undue rise in temperature, quickening of the pulse, and disturbance of various body functions. 2. an abnormally high body temperature. 3. the number of degrees …   Universalium

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

  • puerpéral — puerpéral, ale, aux [ pɥɛrperal, o ] adj. • 1782; du lat. puerpera « accouchée », de puer « enfant » et parere « enfanter » ♦ Méd. Relatif à la période qui suit l accouchement. Accidents puerpéraux. Fièvre puerpérale, due à une infection utérine …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • puerperal sepsis — n PUERPERAL FEVER * * * see under fever …   Medical dictionary

  • 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 — Pu*er per*al, a. [L. puerpera a lying in woman; puer child + parere to bear: cf. F. puerp[ e]ral.] Of or pertaining to childbirth; as, a puerperal fever. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

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