A recent article in the Wall Street Journal, entitled “When Hospitals Become Killers” by Betsy McCaughey, former New York State lieutenant governor who is now the chairperson of the Committee to Reduce Hospital Infections is a cautionary tale.

McCaughey wrote about an infection called CRK which stands for carbapenem-resistant Klebsiella which can be deadly. CRK had caused a serious epidemic in the premiere National Institute of Health medical facility in Bethesda, Maryland that was both embarrassing and deadly because antibiotics couldn’t stop it and it killed 6 people, including a 16 year old boy.

At present there are approximately 3 to 4 dangerous bacteria (or superbugs as they are commonly called) that cause life-threatening illnesses whose names are MRSA (methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus), clostridium difficile (C.Diff), Vancomycin-resistant enterococcus and CPK. Each year, 1.7 million Americans are infected and 99,000 die unnecessarily. Who is at risk for getting these infections? People who have low immune systems and unfortunately, this includes pregnant women, whose immune systems are lower because of their pregnant condition.

One can help avoid getting these infections by contacting your state health agency to see if they have any information on the infection control rates of the hospital where you will give birth. In addition, you should

  • Bring bleach wipes to the hospital and have a family member wipe down all surfaces, including your I.V. pole, the telephone, TV remote, bathroom facilities.
  • Insist on hand washing from everyone who you come in contact with, from food service personnel to your physician or midwife. If you’re shy about asking people to wash their hands then place a big sign on the wall or in front of your bed that says “Please wash your hands when you enter the room.”
  • Make sure that catheters in your bladder or in any other part of your body are removed as soon as possible because they are places that bacteria love to attack. My dear mother died as a result of developing a hospital infection from a bladder catheter.

Although there are survivors of hospital acquired infections, it’s easier to prevent one than it is to treat one. When you enter that labor or birthing room, don’t forget your wipes.