Page images
PDF
EPUB

sideration of the most appalling kind. The propagation of mania, epelipsy, or fits, may be looked to as almost inevitably consequential on a renewal of sexual intercourse before the perfect recovery of the female from a state of puerperal mania. The mere apprehension of entailing on a child such horrible maladies ought to render men cautious, but to condemn from its birth a human being to a state of mind susceptible to the worst impulses of the brute, but wholly incapable of receiving moral or religious impressions, is a crime at which wickedness itself might start back appalled.

[ocr errors]

COMPARATIVE DANGER

OF FIRST AND SUBSEQUENT CHILD-BIRTHS.

· Pregnancy is so usually consequent on an intercourse between the sexes, that it is pretty generally believed to be a state favourable to health and long life. It is certainly presumptive evin dence of the party being in health. An enquiry whether the state of celibacy or of pregnancy

be the more favourable to longevity, would admit of much being said on both sides.

Some physicians of great attainment and very extensive practice are of opinion that “ breeding women are liable to all the diseases of women who do not breed, (with a very trifling difference,) and besides these to the diseases peculiar to lying-in.” Others of equal merit and observation affirm, that “the pregnant state renders the constitution less susceptible of receiving various diseases to which all persons are liable. That the constitution in breeding women is so intent on the work of bringing to maturity the fruit of the womb as to be less acted on by causes which under other circumstances would be sufficient to produce disease, and that it is well known that the progress of various diseases, but especially consumption, is not uncommonly suspended and sometimes entirely stopped by pregnancy.”

No useful purpose would be answered by setting the question at rest and showing the different rates of mortality amongst single women, breeding women, and married women who do not breed; the work of procreation would not be retarded or promoted by an accurate knowledge of the results; but as it rarely happens that a sufficient number of cases come under the personal observation of any one medical man, to enable him to ascertain correctly the comparative danger of child-birth amongst women of different ages and in different labours, and as no professor has hitherto taken the trouble to arrange and publish observations on a point of certainly some import, ance, a few remarks will be here introduced on the subject.

It is not within the scope of the present work to publish tables of the numbers who die bý the act of labour. Little faith would be placed in them, even though they were published by a physician, unless he should give his data also. The enquiry necessarily involves many nice distinctions; women are reported as dying in childbed whose deaths, strictly speaking, are not at -all attributable to pregnancy or child-birth. If a woman die during the month of child-bed of consumption, scarlet fever, typhus, or any other disease, she is reputed to have died in child-bed, and her death is so registered. The samé report is frequently made in cases where premature la

[ocr errors]

bour is excited by any disease of which the woman dies, although that disease was in no way consequent on or incidental to the puerperal state. These few circumstances may serve to show the impracticability of publishing satisfactory data even as to the general number of deaths in childbirth; but when in addition to these it is considered, that the number of deaths by the first and every subsequent labour at every year of life in which pregnancy can happen, must be ascertained and made a subject of comparison, ‘it will be obvious that a publication of the materials, or reasoning, to justify a prognosis, would be next to impossible. • The mortality in first labours, selected from the general mortality by child-birth, will appear to be in the proportion of 114 to 100, and there is no reason to doubt that first labour is attended with greater danger than the second, third, fourth, fifth, or sixth, among young women; but that after several labours, the immediate consequences of childbirth are still more dangerous to life than the act of a first labour, and that every subsequent birth is attended with increased risk.

Where a first pregnancy takes place in the middle of life, the same consequences which frequently follow the birth of a ninth or tenth child by a young woman, may be expected at a fourth or fifth labour of a woman of more advanced

age. These remarks are intended to apply strictly to the dangers of child-birth and its immediate consequences, distinguished from the state of

pregnancy, with respect to which a very different prognosis might be formed.

The following singular question affecting the title to a peerage, has recently undergone discussion, and may be properly introduced in this chapter:

“ Whether it is possible from the course of nature that a child should be begotten on the 30th of January, and born at an interval of three hundred and eleven days—that is, upon the 7th or 8th of December?"

To this question, Doctor Augustus Bozzi Granville, after citing various cases, answered that he was not aware of any circumstance that could render it impossible.

Dr. John Conquest knew, in the course of his practice, of one woman that was certainly pregnant for, at least, ten months. He added at that time, I disbelieved all the cases which I had previously heard. I had been in the habit of laughing at them as a public lecturer; but so strong was the evidence, from the most minute investigation of this case, that I was compelled to admit the accuracy of this woman's statement, and my former convictions were very much shaken. The same thing occurred to this woman at her subsequent confinement; she exceeded the time then, certainly, four weeks;

L

« PreviousContinue »