10-cent antiseptic saves neonates, moms

A British study of 7,000 pregnant women shows that cleansing the birth canal with an inexpensive and safe antiseptic solution — 0.25% chlorhexidine in sterile water — can dramatically reduce post-vaginal birth infections, hospitalizations, and mortality.1 ewborns were wiped with the solution as well.

Among mothers receiving the chlorhexidine intervention, hospital admissions related to delivery were reduced by 27% and admissions related to postpartum infections were reduced threefold. Compared to control infants, those born in the intervention phase of the study were 22% less likely to die, three times less likely to die from sepsis, 12% less likely to be admitted to the hospital for any reason, and 2.3 times less likely to be admitted for sepsis.

"Perhaps most significant was our finding that infant deaths related to sepsis or bacteria in the bloodstream, were reduced three-fold among babies in the intervention phase of the trial."

"The cost of the antiseptic . . . and the cotton to apply it was less than ten cents per patient," state the study’s authors.

For further information on this study, access National Cancer Institute’s World Wide Web site at http://www.nci.nih.gov.


1. Taha TE, Biggar RJ, Broadhead RL, et al. Effect of cleansing the birth canal with antiseptic solution on maternal and newborn morbidity and mortality in Malawi. BMJ 1997; 315:216-220.