The 1897 Prep For Pelvic Exams!

Dr. Penrose, in his 1897 text on Disease of Women, cautioned gynecologic physicians that if they ever saw lesions or discharge that they could be at risk for picking up diseases, particularly syphilis of their examination finger. Yes, these were the days prior to standard use of examination gloves, and even so, gloves didn't perfectly protect against picking up infections. Of course he suggested how to avoid these infections: check first, and although he said that various oils and vaseline might be good lubricants he liked using thing green soap which worked as a lubricant and then could easily be washed from the hands and the vagina. What he thought was even better was that the patient receive a pre-pelvic exam douche of bichloride-of-mercury solution! And they thought this would be helpful in preventing transmission of external infection to the internal pelvic organs. We now caution women not to douche before they come in for an examination because it could obscure the findings that we are testing for. Old books are fascinating books!


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