Delivery Room to Morgue-Alexis M

“Childbed fever was never the leading killer of women, but it was the most tragic.”(51) It was a time during the early 1800s, women dying after giving birth. It was something called childbed fever however, the doctors called it puerperal fever. Childbed fever was a strange epidemic that many would have attempted it but could never cure. “As Oxford historian are Irvine Loudon described it, you could deliver a baby Monday, feel fine Tuesday, feverish Wednesday, delirious Thursday and die on Friday” (53) Many women will be killed including an activist named Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin in 1797. Many conclusions of the causes of childbed fever were posed such as rotten breastmilk, constipation and anxiety. For all the potential causes there were about just as many attempted remedies some included laxatives and chloride douches. In 1836 The Lancret was published including many cause and cure theories Later came Dr. Ignac Semmelweis who proposed the germ theory after performing an autopsy on Professor Jakob Kolletschka. Ignac concluded that infection was spread from corpses from autopsies to mothers in childbirth through doctors. “He said that washing would keep potentially infected material from passing from corpse to mother.”(56) “Semmelweis demanded that everyone scrub with Chlorine after autopsies. He said that washing would keep potential he infected material from passing from corpse to mother. For a while, colleagues adhered to his seemingly over-the-top cleanliness and maternal mortality plummeted from 20% to 1.3%”(56) This quote shows the initial development of handwashing something we consider to be a norm and never would’ve really thought of times without hand washing especially in medical facilities. I find it interesting that despite the dramatic decrease in delivery deaths other doctors still do not believe in Ignac’s theory.

Picture of Dr.Ignac
I choose to write my blog post about childbed fever because of how it has impacted modern day. Dr. Ignac discovery of germs is why we take as many sanitary precautions as we do today. When Ignac first developed his germ theory other doctors thought he was crazy. “Before bacteria was discovered in the late 1800s doctors were utterly baffled” (53) I personally find it hard to believe that doctors would perform autopsies or infected corpses and go straight to delivering a baby without any sanitation. I also wonder why that same doctors were performing autopsies and delivering babies. I am really enjoying the book and I continue to be fascinated by the amount of progress that has been made in biomedical history.

Spread of Disease Illustration

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4 thoughts on “Delivery Room to Morgue-Alexis M

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  1. Great post! I love the use of pictures because it really illustrates the work Ignac has done to change our medical sciences today. I found this case in history interesting because it is generally human nature to look for an answer to everything, but in this case, the doctors wouldn’t even accept Ignac’s explanation of germs because (let’s face it) they were probably just too lazy to wash their hands, even though there was enough evidence to prove that preventing germs did decrease childbed fever. It just goes to show that we should really be thankful for the discovery that Ignac has made, because many of us wouldn’t be alive and healthy today if it weren’t for him.
    –Izzy V.

    1. Thanks for your comment, it helped me to think about why the other doctors rejected Ignacs hand washing method. Previously I thought the other doctors rejected hand washing because I didn’t make sense or appealed to be dangerous. After reading your comment it makes so much sense that the other doctors could have been just pure lazy. I think it’s terrible that pure laziness caused unnecessary deaths in new mothers. I wonder if there is an equivalent issue we face today that is neglected due to pure laziness. – Alexis

  2. I actually like how you did your blog post to focus on how back then the thought of washing your hands was not even a thought. While I was reading I was amazed on how other doctors didn’t even believe him until it was too late. But like I have been telling myself sometimes we have to find out the hard way for it to really stick.

  3. Thanks for your comment, it helped me to think about why the other doctors rejected Ignacs hand washing method. Previously I thought the other doctors rejected hand washing because I didn’t make sense or appealed to be dangerous. After reading your comment it makes so much sense that the other doctors could have been just pure lazy. I think it’s terrible that pure laziness caused unnecessary deaths in new mothers. I wonder if there is an equivalent issue we face today that is neglected due to pure laziness. – Alexis

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