Other than in the case of a cesarean section or a mastectomy, there was little invasive surgery available to women prior to the discovery of anesthesia in the mid nineteenth century, though a number of instruments were designed for women prior to that.
When the child had expired and the mother's life was in danger, it was imperative that the dead fetus be removed immediately. A number of gruesome and exotic instruments were used by physicians in the nineteenth century for this purpose.
One of the most important discoveries in the history of medicine was that of the obstetric forceps, and some have called the forceps “the most valuable of all surgical instruments.” Unfortunately, however, the Chamberlen family kept the discovery a secret for several generations, thus depriving millions the use of this life-saving device.
Where they save one, they murder many.
Dr. William Hunter (1718-1783)
It was only within the last several hundred years that the study and treatment of conditions affecting women were considered appropriate for review by the established medical community. Even into the 19th century, Victorian prohibitions and gender bias prevented an accurate and thorough evaluation of women’s diseases.
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