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October 7, 1968

Childbed Fever—A Continuing Entity

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Harvard Medical School, and the Boston Hospital for Women. Dr. Watson is emeritus professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Columbia University, New York.

JAMA. 1968;206(2):344-350. doi:10.1001/jama.1968.03150020060012

A serious epidemic of puerperal sepsis in May 1965, without any evident breach of technique or good practice, was traced by modern bacteriologic methods for the first time to a single reservoir and the probable source of the infection.

In the decade from 1935 to 1945, safety in childbirth gained a new horizon with the introduction of antimicrobial drugs. For this and other reasons, the resulting decrease in maternal mortality has conjured up the illusion both within the profession and out of it, that childbirth no longer entails appreciable risk to mother or fetus. The fear of infecting a parturient by cross-contamination, once considered the most likely source of puerperal fever epidemics, has evidently disappeared in the minds of many physicians and some hospital and health officials. This is reflected in the mixing of so-called "clean gynecologic" and obstetric patients on the same hospital floor. Such practice is predicated mainly