4 Symptoms of Infection After Miscarriage

Signs of Incomplete Miscarriage

Young woman with hot water bottle

After receiving a diagnosis of first-trimester miscarriage, women often can choose between a natural miscarriage or a dilation and curettage (D&C) procedure. Some physicians also offer medical management using prescription drugs that will expedite the miscarriage.

Regardless of the management choice, about 3 percent of women will develop a post-miscarriage infection, sometimes due to retained tissue in the uterus. If you have any of the following symptoms, you should contact your doctor immediately. Uterine infections can be dangerous if not treated.

Here are four symptoms of infection after miscarriage:

  • Prolonged bleeding and cramping (longer than about two weeks)
  • Fever over 100.4 degrees
  • Chills
  • Foul-smelling vaginal discharge

You can reduce the risk of infection by avoiding sexual intercourse, douching, swimming in pools, and using tampons for the amount of time recommended by your physician.

Septic Miscarriage Defined

Infection after miscarriage is called septic miscarriage (or septic abortion). Fortunately, septic miscarriage is rare. Such infection is usually due to retained products of conception after a miscarriage. In other words, remnants of the pregnancy linger in the uterus and serve as a nidus, or breeding place, for infection. Septic miscarriage can also result from certain obstetric procedures or surgeries as well as nontherapeutic abortion. Nontherapeutic abortion means that a woman chooses to terminate a pregnancy for non-medical reasons.

What Type of Bacteria Cause Septic Miscarriage?

Both aerobic and anaerobic bacteria can cause septic abortion. Usually, septic miscarriage involves both anaerobic and aerobic bacteria. These bacteria species include:

  • Prevotella
  • Bacteroides
  • C. trachomatis
  • Group B streptococci
  • Enterobacteriaceae

Infection with these bacteria is progressive. Such infection begins in the uterus and then digs its way through the deeper layers of the uterus and then into the adnexa and pelvic peritoneum. Septic abortion can infect your entire body, becoming systemic. Untreated septic miscarriage can result in life-threatening septic shock. With septic shock, the blood pressure drops dangerously low and organs fail. More rarely, septic thrombophlebitis can end up producing a septic pulmonary embolism, which is a blockage of the blood vessels in the lungs.


These are the symptoms your doctor will note:

  • Pelvic pain
  • Tender uterus
  • Malodorous and copious vaginal discharge
  • Systemic or system-wide signs of infection, such as fever and leukocytosis (increased white blood cell count)


Oftentimes, women with septic miscarriage have a history of OB-GYN surgery or nontherapeutic abortion. Thus, a physician will ask about these things during the history and physical exam. It's integral that the patient discloses all relevant information; remember that the vast majority of physicians are compassionate and nonjudgmental.

Ultrasound is performed to visualize any retained products of conception. Alternatively, MRI or CT can be used to visualize retained products of conception. Blood tests are also done when septic miscarriage is suspected.


Septic miscarriage is a medical emergency, with prompt treatment a necessity. People with this condition are routinely hospitalized. First, any retained products of conception are cleared from the uterus. Second, broad-spectrum antibiotics are administered. Shock will be treated if present. Unfortunately, hysterectomy is often needed to save the life of the patient. Even with the best treatment, death can still occur.

View Article Sources
  • After a Miscarriage: Physical Recovery. American Pregnancy Association
  • D & C Procedure After a Miscarriage. American Pregnancy Association.
  • Tucker R, Platt M. Chapter 38. Obstetric and Gynecological Emergencies and Rape. In: Stone C, Humphries RL. eds. CURRENT Diagnosis & Treatment Emergency Medicine, 7eNew York, NY: McGraw-Hill; 2011.