Obstetrical Antisepsis

Childbed Fever

Childbed fever, also known as puerperal fever, includes any number of infections that occur after birth. Childbed fever was especially deadly before early 20th century improvements in postpartum care and a greater understanding of microbial infections. In 1888 Dr. Charles James Cullingworth noted in a lecture at St. Thomas's Hospital in London, "that almost the whole of this mortality may in the future be avoided, and that puerperal fever, both in its fatal and nonfatal manifestations, may be practically stamped out." Once physicians understood the connection between their tendency not to wash their hands or sterilize instruments between seeing patients and the spreading of disease, devices such as the sterilizer below were devised to make antisepsis a widespread habit and achieve Dr. Cullingworth's vision.