Sepsis contributes significantly to global morbidity and mortality, particularly in vulnerable populations. Pregnant and recently pregnant women are particularly prone to rapid progression to sepsis and septic shock, with 11% of maternal deaths worldwide being attributed to sepsis. The impact on the neonate is considerable, with 1 million neonatal deaths annually attributed to maternal infection or sepsis. Pregnancy specific physiological and immunological adaptations are likely to contribute to a greater impact of infection, but current approaches to the management of sepsis are based on those developed for the non-pregnant population. Pregnancy-specific strategies are required to optimise recognition and management of these patients. We review current knowledge of the physiology and immunology of pregnancy and propose areas of research, which may advance the development of pregnancy-specific diagnostic and therapeutic approaches to optimise the care of pregnant women and their babies.
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