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New guidelines to lower risk of retained swabs after birth

The National Patient Safety Agency has issued guidance aimed at reducing the risk of retained swabs after a vaginal birth.

The NPSA Rapid Response Report follows 99 incidents – reported between 1 April 2007 and 31 March 2009 – of swabs being left in the vagina after birth and perineal suturing.

Retained swabs can cause pyrexia, infection, pain, post-partum haemorrhage and psychological problems. The guidance requires NHS organisations to have written procedures for swab counts at all births and to audit swab count practices in their maternity services.


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