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As a mother, you know there are risks associated with pregnancy and delivery.

But you may not know a surgical sponge left behind after childbirth could be one of them.

Educate yourself

What is a surgical sponge?

A surgical sponge is a loosely woven fabric that’s commonly used after birth in normal vaginal delivery or during a surgical procedure to absorb blood and other bodily fluids.

How do sponges get left behind?

In operating rooms and labor and delivery, there’s a standardized practice of surgical sponge counts. That means, surgeons and nurses manually count each sponge used during the procedure as it goes into a patient and as it comes out.

Despite this process, the count out of a patient may not match the count in. That can result in surgical sponges that are left in the vagina after delivery.

Ask your OBGYN what they do to prevent retained surgical sponges.

Download these 5 questions to address with your OBGYN at your next visit.

Know the signs & symptoms

How do I know if a surgical sponge has been left behind?

Check with your doctor if you experience any of these common symptoms.2

  • Vaginal discharge 24 hours after giving birth
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Fatigue
  • Abdominal pain
  • Bloating
  • Signs of infection

From detection to post procedure.A mother's journey.


Abdominal pain, bloating, or an infection has led to the discovery of a retained sponge3

Sponge removal

Once detected, the mother may have to undergo surgery to remove

Recovery time

The time required to heal from surgery

Caring for the baby

Mother gets back to normal life and continues to care for her newborn

Spread awareness

Help other women by telling them about the problem

Hear what new moms are saying

Women share how they felt when a retained sponge was discovered after childbirth.4

Spread awareness

Share this story with other women so they can be informed about retained surgical sponge events.

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  1. Gawande AA, Studdert DM, Orav EJ, Brennan TA, Zinner MJ. Risk factors for retained instruments and sponges after surgery. NE J Med. 2003;348(3):229–235.
  2. Managing Sponges in Labor and Delivery. CHPSO A division of the Hospital Quality Institute. Accessed June 18, 2020.
  3. Improving patient care by reducing retained sponges during vaginal deliveries. A supplement to Ob. Gyn News. Hector Chapa, MD.
  4. Based on internal analysis of independent research conducted by IPSOS. Social landscape analysis: retained sponges. 2018.
  5. Mehtsun WT, Ibrahim AM, Diener-West M, Pronovost PJ, Makary MA. Surgical never events in the United States. Surgery, 2013;153(4):465–472.
  6. Williams TL, Tung DK, Steelman VM, Chang PK, Szekendi MK. Retained surgical sponges: findings from incident reports and a cost-benefit analysis of radiofrequency technology. Journal of the American College of Surgeons. 2014.
  7. Lauwers PR, Hee RHV. Intraperitoneal gossypibomas: the need to count sponges. World Journal of Surgery. 2000;24(5):521–527.