The Things They (the Obstetricians) Carried

In preparation for birth your baby at the turn of the 20th century the obstetrician had to bring everything he used. Textbooks from the time had detailed lists of tools, clothing, towels, and compounds that were to be brought with them when they showed up for work. The births were always in the home, as hospital births were not common until after the 1920s and obstetricians were to have in readiness a variety of solutions and chemicals including potassium permanganate, oxalic acid, boric acid, ergotol and bi-chloride tablets. They also had in their kit green soap, Vaseline, 2 pounds of absorbent cotton and a chloroform inhaler to use with either ether or chloroform. The pelvimeter, nail clippers, nail brush were also essential devices. The pelvimeter pictured here is not unlike the pelvimeters they had in those days. And of course 5 basins, 4 of which were for the obstetrician,  and 2 large pitchers of boiled water were provided by the mothers themselves! The obstetricians wanted to be ready but perhaps not overly interfering, the text goes on to say be in attendance for the labor but in Williams textbook, edition 1, states the physician should direct "not to send for him if the labour commences at night, between 11 P.M. and 7A.M. unless absolutely necessary."

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