In 1847, One Simple Procedure Saved Thousands Of Expectant Mothers

Date November 5, 2018

It’s unlikely that many of you are familiar with the name Ignaz Semmelweis; however, his work is still crucial for most families even today.

In 1847, One Simple Procedure Saved Thousands Of Expectant Mothersfizkes /

Semmelweis was born in Buda (now part of Budapest, Hungary) on 1 July 1818 to a family of a well-off trader. In 1844, Ignaz graduated from University of Vienna majoring in surgery and obstetrics, and 7 years later returned to Budapest, where he took the charge of the Hospital of Saint Roch.

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In those years women were prone to dying from childbed fever. Moreover, fatal cases in childbirth in hospitals significantly outnumbered the home delivery ones, despite the fact that in medical institutions the procedure was performed by professionals.


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The young Hungarian doctor had been trying his best to find out the causes of such morbid tendency until one day he was finally blessed with an idea. In 1847, Semmelweis suggested that infections got into the labor wards from the infectious disease ward or the department of morbid anatomy. He believed so because most times doctors had to deliver babies right after performing an autopsy while there was no such thing as hygiene at that time.


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Ignaz was one of the first to start a battle for sterility in hospitals. He obligated the staff to place their hands into a chlorine solution before any contact with pregnant women. A lot of Semmelweis’s colleagues made fun of his suggestion; however, shortly thereafter it showed results. Lethality rate decreased by over 7 times (from 18% to 2,5%).

The progress of this fundamental discovery wasn't without obstacles. A storm of criticism arose against both Semmelweis’s disinfection procedure and Ignaz himself. Hospital management even banned him from publishing the statistics of lethality decrease connected with the introduction of the procedure and later fired him.

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Semmelweis’s fate was tragic. In 1865, he was admitted to a mental health institution, where, by a twist of fate, he died from sepsis – the disease for which so many expectant mothers died before his breakthrough.


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Alas, the doctor’s part in the antiseptics introduction was only acknowledged after his death. For a significant contribution to the development of medical science, his descendants even erected a memorial to Ignaz, which described him as the “savior of mothers.”

There are many diseases you can avoid by simply washing your hands, including:

  • dysentery;
  • typhoid fever;
  • cholera; 
  • intestinal infections;
  • hepatitis.

In 1847, One Simple Procedure Saved Thousands Of Expectant Mothersr.classen /

Many people fall sick just for the reason of their own negligence. This includes not washing their hands before eating, after visiting a washroom, or using public transport. It is important to understand that hygiene isn’t merely a personal issue. You might become a source of serious diseases and spread them to your colleagues or family members.

In 1847, One Simple Procedure Saved Thousands Of Expectant Mothersyurakrasil /

We must all develop a habit of washing your hands thoroughly several times a day. Try to make this process as natural as possible to do it proactively.

It’s a pity that the work of the great Hungarian doctor was only appreciated after his death; however, we all owe him our lives!

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