Childbed fever is a completely new concept to me. I mean I’m learning a lot of new things from this book, but this especially I anted to go into detail about simply because of the fact that I didn’t really understand it at first.
It’s pretty self-explanatory that it’s fever. In the book (Get Me Out, by: Randi Hutter Epstein) that “you can deliver a baby on Monday, feel fine Tuesday, feverish Wednesday, delirious Thursday, and die on Friday.” (Page 53) While that sounds terrible and scary I wasn’t satisfied with that teensy ounce of information along with the fact that it killed tons of women. Reading further I found that when they cut women open they found fetid pus suffocating the ovaries, uterus, and abdomen of the dead woman. Along with symptoms like “sharp pains that radiated from the belly upward” (page 53), the fear of this sickness is well understood.
Because of this sickness women would die and rot away, and while not everyone that got the fever died it still scared most women because the fact that doctors didn’t really know what caused it. It baffles me how we can skip around problems for so long when the stairs temps to a solution could be right under our feet.
The very first step would be to sanitize your hands and the instruments you will be using in between the morgue and the delivery room. Even delivery room to delivery room. Dr. Ignac Semmelweis had insisted that others scrub up with chlorine after messing with dead bodies. In this day and age, of course that would be “duh” moment. Of course we would sanitize. That’s basically asking for cross-contamination if we don’t. You’re welcoming infections if you don’t at least wash your hands. Though in Semmelweis’s time the whole bacteria-germs thing… Wasn’t a thing. It wasn’t nonexistent, but people did look at like it was more ore less nonsense. I had no idea it took them that long. No wonder people were dying left and right…
So Ignac told everyone to wash their hands. Simple, right? He believe that his mentor (which he performed an autopsy on after he died) Kolletschka had “infected himself with himself with a deadly substance that killed the pregnant women.” (Page 56) Hence the chlorine-wash insistence on his part. Most of his colleagues thought he was arrogant, and that he was framing doctors to be murderers. Maybe they complied wth him to keep him from telling others, but either way the maternal mortality rate dropped from 20% to 1.3%.
People still weren’t quite convinced. They stopped most hand washing, and the statistics rose once more. Semmelweis got even more fired up and wanted to make the whole hand-washing thing a law. Instead he was fired. In 1859 he dies in an insane asylum.
It’s pretty incredible how people would much rather adhere to to women making cocktails with a bunch of who-knows-what in it. To obstetrics and their fresh-air therapy. To doctors who want to stuff you with emetics and laxatives to drain toxins. Chlorine douches (which no one should ever use) to cleanse the birth canal. Leeches (LEECHES, THOSE NASTY THINGS THAT SUCK YOUR BLOOD YOU FIND IN LAKES IF YOUR’RE UNFORTUNATE ENOUGH) to suck out the bad blood.
Some crawled up the vagina.
Some got lost in the womb.
Think about that.
Some people blamed rotten breast milk (?!) that leaked downwards. Why? Because the dead mothers smelled of rotten milk.
This whole chapter has me wanting to read the next one because there has to be hope. All these methods are absolutely ridiculous.
There has to be hope for us.