Female Health | 18th Century Medicine


    About the author

    Edward St. Germain.
    Edward St. Germain

    Edward A. St. Germain created AmericanRevolution.org in 1996. He was an avid historian with a keen interest in the Revolutionary War and American culture and society in the 18th century. On this website, he created and collated a huge collection of articles, images, and other media pertaining to the American Revolution. Edward was also a Vietnam veteran, and his investigative skills led to a career as a private detective in later life.


      Editor’s note
      The following is a chapter from the book “Domestic Medicine” written by Dr. William Buchanan in 1785. It provides a fascinating insight into medical knowledge of the time, including the often haphazard and sometimes dangerous techniques used to treat certain injuries and illnesses in the 1700s. We have not edited this book chapter, and as a result it may contain old English spellings of certain words.


      WOMEN, in all civilized nations, have the management of domestic affairs, and it is very proper they should, as Nature has made them less fit for the more active and laborious employments. This indulgence, however, is generally carried too far; and females, instead of being benefited by it, are greatly injured, from the want of exercise and free air. To be satisfied of this, one need only compare the fresh and ruddy looks of a milk-maid with the pale complexion of those females whose whole time is spent within doors. Though Nature has made an evident distinction between the male and female with regard to bodily strength and vigour, yet she certainly never meant, either that the one should be always without, or the other always within doors.

      THE confinement of females, besides hurting their figure and complexion, relaxes their solids, weakens their minds, and disorders the functions of the body. Hence proceed obstructions, indigestion, flatulence, abortions, and the whole train of nervous disorders. These not only unfit women for being mothers and nurses, but often render them whimsical and ridiculous. A sound mind depends so much upon a healthy body, that where the latter is wanting, the former is rarely to be found.

      I HAVE always observed, that women who were chiefly employed without doors, in the different branches of husbandry, gardening, and the like, were almost as hardy as their husbands, and that their children were likewise strong and healthy. But as the bad effects of confinement and inactivity upon both sexes have been already shewn, we shall proceed to point out these circumstances in the structure and design of females, which subject them to peculiar diseases; the chief of which are, their monthly evacuations, pregnancy, and child-bearing. These indeed cannot property be called diseases, but from the delicacy of the sex, and their being often improperly managed in such situations, they become the source of numerous calamities.


      FEMALES generally begin to menstruate about the age of fifteen and leave it off about fifty, which renders these two periods the most critical of their lives. About the first appearance of this discharge, the constitution undergoes a very considerable change, generally indeed for the better, though sometimes for the worse. The greatest care is now necessary, as the future health and happiness of the female depends, in a great measure, upon her conduct at this period. It is the duty of mothers, and those who are intrusted with the education of girls, to instruct them early in the conduct and management of themselves at this critical period of their lives. False modesty, inattention, and ignorance of what is beneficial or hurtful at this time, are the sources of many diseases and misfortunes in life, which a few sensible lessons from an experienced matron might have prevented. Nor is care less necessary in the subsequent returns of this discharge. Taking improper food, violent affections of the mind, or catching cold at this period, is often sufficient to ruin the health, or to render the female ever after incapable of procreation.

      IF a girl about this time of life be confined to the house, kept constantly sitting, and neither allowed to romp about, nor employed in any active business, which gives exercise to the whole body, she becomes weak, relaxed, and puny; her blood not being duly prepared, she looks pale and wan; her health, spirits, and vigour decline, and she sinks into a valetudinary for life. Such is the fate of numbers of those unhappy females, who, either from too much indulgence, or their own narrow circumstances, are, at this critical period, denied the benefit of exercise and free air.

      A LAZY indolent disposition proves likewise very hurtful to girls at this period. One seldom meets with complaints from obstructions amongst the more active and industrious part of the sex; whereas the indolent and lazy are seldom free from them. These are, in a manner, eat up by the chlorosis, or green-sickness, and other diseases of this nature. We would therefore recommend it to all who wish to escape these calamities, to avoid indolence and inactivity, as their greatest enemies, and to be as much abroad in the open air as possible.

      ANOTHER thing which proves very hurtful to girls about this period of life, is unwholesome food. Fond of all manner of trash, they often indulge in it, till their whole humours are quite vitiated. Hence ensue indigestions, want of appetite, and a numerous train of evils. If the fluids be not duly prepared, it is utterly impossible that the secretions should go properly on: Accordingly we find, that such girls as lead an indolent life, and eat great quantities of trash, are not only subject to obstructions of the menses, but likewise glandular obstructions; as the scrophula or king’s evil, &c.

      A DULL disposition is also very hurtful to girls at this period. It is a rare thing to see a sprightly girl who does not enjoy good health, while the grave, moping, melancholy creature, proves the very prey of vapours and hysterics. Youth is the season for mirth and cheerfulness. Let it therefore be indulged. It is an absolute duty. To lay in a stock of health in time of youth, is as necessary a piece of prudence as to make provision against the decays of old age. While therefore wise Nature prompts the happy youth to join in sprightly amusements, let not the severe dictates of hoary age forbid the useful impulse, nor damp, with serious gloom, the season destined to mirth and innocent festivity.

      ANOTHER thing very hurtful to females about this period of life is strait clothes. They are fond of a fine shape, and foolishly imagine that this can be acquired by lacing themselves tight. Hence, by squeezing the stomach and bowels, they hurt the digestion, and occasion many incurable maladies. This error is not indeed so common as it has been; but, as fashions change, it may come about again. we therefore think it not improper to mention it. I know many females who, to this day, feel the direful effects of that wretched custom, which prevailed some years ago, of squeezing every girl into as small a size in the middle as possible. Human invention could not possibly have devised a practice more destructive to health.

      AFTER a female has arrived at that period of life when the menses usually begin to flow, and they do not appear, but, on the contrary, her health and spirits begin to decline we would advise, instead of shutting the poor girl up in the house, and dosing her with steel asafoetida, and other nauseous drugs, to place her in a situation where she can enjoy the benefit of free air and agreeable company. There let her eat wholesome food, take sufficient exercise, and amuse herself in the most agreeable manner; and we have little reason to fear, but Nature, thus assisted, will do her proper work. Indeed she seldom fails, unless where the fault is on our side.

      THIS discharge in the beginning is seldom so instantaneous as to surprise females unawares. It is generally preceded by symptoms which foretel its approach; as a sense of heat, weight, and dull pain in the loins; distention and hardness of the breasts; head-ach; loss of appetite; lassitude; paleness of the countenance; and sometimes a slight degree of fever. When these symptoms appear about the age at which the menstrual flux usually begins, every thing should be carefully avoided which may obstruct that necessary and salutary evacuation; and all means used to promote it; as sitting frequently over the steams of warm water, drinking warm diluting liquors, &c.

      AFTER the menses have once begun to flow, the greatest care should be taken to avoid every thing that may tend to obstruct them. Females ought to be exceeding cautious of what they eat or drink at the time they are out of order. Every thing that is cold, or apt to sour on the stomach ought. to be avoided; as fruit, butter-milk, and such like. Fish, and all kinds of food that are hard of digestion, are also to be avoided. As it is impossible to mention every thing that may disagree with individuals at this time we would recommend it to every female to be very attentive to what disagrees with herself, and carefully to avoid it.

      COLD is extremely hurtful at this particular period. More of the sex date their disorders from colds, caught while they are out of order, than from all other causes. This ought surely to put them upon their guard, and to make them very circumspect in their conduct at such times. A degree of cold that will not in the least hurt them at another time, will, at this period, be sufficient entirely to ruin their health and constitution.

      THE greatest attention ought likewise to be paid to the mind, which should be kept as easy and cheerful as possible. Every part of the animal oeconomy is influenced by the passions, but none more so than this. Anger, fear, grief, and other affections of the mind often occasion obstructions of the menstrual flux, which prove absolutely incurable.

      FROM whatever cause this flux is obstructed, except in the state of pregnancy, proper means should be used to restore it. For this purpose we would recommend sufficient exercise, in a dry, open, and rather cool air; wholesome diet, and, if the body be weak and languid, generous liquors; also cheerful company, and all manner of amusements. If these fail, recourse must be had to medicine.

      WHEN obstructions proceed from a weak relaxed state of the solids, such medicines as tend to promote digestion, to brace the solids, and assist the body in preparing good blood, ought to be used. The principal of these are iron and the Peruvian bark, with other bitter and astringent medicines. Filings of iron may be infused in wine or ale, two or three ounces to an English quart, and after it has stood for two or three weeks it may be filtered, and about half a wine glass of it taken twice a-day: or prepared steel may be taken in the dose of half a drachm, mixed with a little honey or treacle, three or four times a-day. The bark and other bitters may either be taken in substance or infusion, as is most agreeable to the patient.

      WHEN obstructions proceed from a viscid state of the blood; or for women of a gross or full habit, evacuations, and such medicines as attenuate the humours, are necessary. The patient in this case ought to be bled, to bathe her feet frequently in warm water, to take now and then a cooling purge, and to live upon a spare thin diet. Her drink should be whey, water, or small beer, and she ought to take sufficient exercise. A tea-spoonful of the tincture of black hellebore may also be taken twice a-day in a cup of warm water.

      WHEN obstructions proceed from affections of the mind, as grief, fear, anger, &c. every method should be taken to amuse and divert the patient. And that she may the more readily forget the cause of her affliction, she ought, if possible, to be removed from the place where it happened. A change of place, by presenting the mind with a variety of new objects, has often a very happy influence in relieving it from the deepest distress. A soothing, kind, and affable behaviour to females in this situation is also of the last importance.

      AN obstruction of the menses is often the effect of other maladies,. When this is the case, instead of giving medicines to force that discharge, which might be dangerous, we ought, by all means, to endeavour to restore the patient’s health and strength. When that is effected, the other will return of course.

      BUT the menstrual flux may be too great as well as too small. When this happens, the patient becomes weak, the colour pale, the appetite and digestion are bad, and oedematous swellings of the feet, dropsies, and consumptions often ensue. This frequently happens to women about the age of forty-five or fifty, and is very difficult to cure. It may proceed from a sedentary life; a full diet, consisting chiefly of salted, high-seasoned, or acrid food; the use of spirituous liquors; excessive fatigue; relaxation; a dissolved state of the blood; violent passions of the mind, &c.

      THE treatment of this disease must be varied according to its cause. When it is occasioned by any error in the patient’s regimen, an opposite course to that which induced the disorder must be pursued, and such medicines taken as have a tendency to restrain the flux, and counteract the morbid affections of the system from whence it proceeds,

      TO restrain the flux, the patient should be kept quiet and easy both in body and mind. If it be very violent, she ought to lie in bed with her head low, to live upon a cool and slender diet, as veal or chicken broths with bread; and to drink decoctions of nettle-roots, or the greater comfrey. If these be not sufficient to stop the flux, stronger astringents may be used, as Japan earth, allum, elixir of vitriol, the Peruvian bark, &c. Two drachms of allum and one of Japan earth may be pounded together, and divided into eight or nine doses, one of which may be taken three times a-day. Persons whose stomachs cannot bear the allum, may take two table-spoonfuls of the tincture of roses three or four times a-day, to each dose of which ten drops of laudanum may be added. If these should fail, half a drachm of the Peruvian bark, in powder, with ten drops of the elixir of vitriol, may be taken, in a glass of red wine, four times a-day.

      THE uterine flux may offend in quality as well is in quantity. What is usually called the fluor albus, or whites, is a very common disease, and proves extremely hurtful to delicate women. This discharge, however, is not always white, but sometimes pale, yellow, green, or of a blackish colour; sometimes it is sharp and corrosive, sometimes foul and foetid, &c. It is attended with a pale complexion, pain in the back, loss of appetite, swelling of the feet, and other signs of debility. It generally proceeds from a relaxed state of the body, arising from indolence, the excessive use of tea, coffee, or other weak and watery diet.

      TO remove this disease, the patient must take as much exercise at she can bear without fatigue. Her food should be solid and nourishing, but of easy digestion; and her drink rather generous, as red port or claret, mixed with Pyrmont, Bristol, or lime-water. Tea and coffee are to be avoided. I have often known strong broths have an exceeding good effect; and sometimes a milk diet alone will perform a cure. The patient ought not to lie too long a-bed. When medicine is necessary, we know none preferable to the Peruvian bark, which, in this case ought always to be taken in substance. In warm weather, the cold bath will be of considerable service.

      THAT period of life at which the menses cease to flow, is likewise very critical to the sex. The stoppage of any customary evacuation, however small, is sufficient to disorder the whole frame, and often to destroy life itself. Hence it comes to pass, that so many women either fall into chronic disorders, or die about this time. Such of them, however, as survive it, without contracting any chronic disease, often become more healthy and hardy than they were before, and enjoy strength and vigour to a very great age.

      IF the menses cease all of a sudden, in women of a full habit, they ought to abate somewhat of their usual quantity of food, especially of the more nourishing kind, as flesh, eggs, &c. They ought likewise to take sufficient exercise, and to keep the body open. This may be done by taking, once or twice a-week, a little rhubarb, or an infusion of hiera picra in wine or brandy.

      IT often happens that women of a gross habit, at this period of life, have ulcerous sores break out about their ancles, or in other parts of the body. Such ulcers ought to be considered as critical, and should either be suffered to continue open, or have artificial drains substituted in their stead. Women who will have such sores dried up, are often soon after carried off by acute diseases, or fall into those of a chronic nature.


      THOUGH pregnancy is not a disease, yet that state is often attended with a variety of complaints which merit attention, and which sometimes require the assistance of medicine. Some women indeed are more healthy during their pregnancy than at any other time; but this is by no means the general case: most of them breed in sorrow, and are frequently indisposed during the whole time of pregnancy. Few fatal diseases, however, happen during that period; and hardly any, except abortion, that can be called dangerous. We shall therefore pay particular attention, to it, as it proves generally fatal to the child, and sometimes so to the mother.

      PREGNANT women are often afflicted with the heart-burn. The method of treating this complaint has been already pointed out. They are likewise, in the more early periods of pregnancy, often harassed with sickness and vomiting, especially in the morning. The method of relieving these complaints has also been shewn. Both the head-ach and toothach are very troublesome symptoms of pregnancy. The former may generally be removed by keeping the body gently open, by the use of prunes, figs, roasted apples, and such like. When the pain is very violent, bleeding may be necessary. For the treatment of the latter, we must refer to that article. Several other complaints incident to pregnant women might be mentioned, as a cough and difficulty of breathing, suppression and incontinency of urine, &c. but as all of these have been taken notice of before, it is needless to repeat them.

      EVERY pregnant woman is more or less in danger of abortion. This should be guarded against with the greatest care, as it not only weakens the constitution, but renders the woman liable to the same misfortune afterwards. Abortion may happen at any period of pregnancy, but it is most common in the second or third month. Sometimes, however, it happens in the fourth or fifth. If it happens within the first month, it is usually called a false conception; if after the seventh month, the child may often be kept alive by proper care. Every mother who procures an abortion does it at the hazard of her life; yet there are not a few who run this risk merely to prevent the trouble of bearing and bringing up children. It is surely a most unnatural crime, and cannot, even in the most abandoned, be viewed without horror; but in the decent matron, it is still more unpardonable. – Those wretches who daily advertise their assistance to women in this business, deserve, in my opinion, the most severe of all human punishments.

      THE common causes of abortion are, the death of the child; weakness or relaxation of the mother; great evacuations; violent exercise; raising great weights; reaching too high; jumping, or stepping from an eminence; vomiting; coughing; convulsion fits; strokes on the belly; falls; fevers; disagreeable smells; excess of blood; indolence; high living; or the contrary; violent passions or affections of the mind, as fear, grief, &c.

      THE signs of approaching abortion are, pain in the loins, or about the bottom of the belly; a dull heavy pain in the inside of the thighs; a slight degree of coldness, or shivering; sickness; palpitation of the heart; the breasts become flat and soft; the belly falls; and there is a discharge of blood or watery humours from the womb.

      To prevent abortion, we would advise women of a weak or relaxed habit to use solid food, avoiding great quantities of tea, and other weak and watery liquors; to rise early, and go soon to bed; to shun damp houses; to take frequent exercise in the open air, but to avoid fatigue; and never to go abroad in damp foggy weather, if they can shun it.

      WOMEN of a full habit ought to use a spare diet, avoiding strong liquors, and every thing that may tend to heat the body, or increase the quantity of blood. Their diet should be of an opening nature, consisting principally of vegetable substances. Every woman with child ought to be kept cheerful and easy in her mind. Her appetites, even though depraved, ought to be indulged as far as prudence will permit.

      WHEN any signs of abortion appear, the woman ought to be laid in bed on a matrass, with her head low. She should be kept quiet, and her mind soothed and comforted. She ought not to be kept too hot, nor to take any thing of a heating nature. Her food should consist of broths, rice, and milk, jellies, gruels made of oat-meal, and the like, all of which ought to be taken cold.

      IF she be able to bear it, she should lose, at least, half a pound of blood from the arm. Her drink ought to be barley-water sharpened with juice of lemon; or she may take half a drachm of powdered nitre, in a cup of water-gruel, every five or six hours. If the woman be seized with a violent looseness, she ought to drink the decoction of calcined hartshorn prepared. If she be affected with vomiting, let her take frequently two table-spoonfuls of the saline mixture. In general, opiates are of service but they should always be given with caution.

      SANGUINE robust women, who are liable to miscarry at a certain time of pregnancy, ought always to be bled a few days before that period arrives. By this means and observing the regimen above prescribed, they might often escape that misfortune.

      THOUGH we recommend due care for preventing abortion, we would not be understood as restraining pregnant women from their usual exercises. This would generally operate the quite contrary way. Want of exercise not only relaxes the body, but induces a plethora, or too great a fulness of the vessels, which are the two principal causes of abortion. There are, however, some women of so delicate a texture, that it is necessary for them to avoid almost every kind of exercise during the whole period of pregnancy


      MANY diseases proceed from the want of due care in child-bed; and the more hardy part of the sex are most apt to despise the necessary precautions in this state. This is peculiarly the case with young wives. They think, when the labour-pains are ended, the danger is over; but in truth it may only then be said to be begun. Nature, if left to herself, will seldom fail to expel the foetus; but proper care and management are certainly necessary for the recovery of the mother. No doubt mischief may be done by too much as well as by too little care. Hence females who have the greatest number of attendants in childbed generally recover worst. But this is not peculiar to the state of child-bed. Excessive care always defeats its own intention, and is generally more dangerous than none at all. Though the management of women in child-bed has been practiced as an employment since the earliest accounts of time; yet it is still, in most countries, on a very bad footing. Few women think of following this employment till they be reduced to the necessity of doing it for bread. Hence not one in a hundred of them have any education, or proper knowledge of their business. It is true, that Nature, if left to herself, will generally expel the foetus; but it is equally true that most women in child-bed require to be managed with skill and attention, and that they are often hurt by the superstitious prejudices of ignorant and officious midwives. The mischief done in this way is much greater than is generally imagined; most of which might be prevented by allowing no women to practice midwifery but such as are properly qualified. Were due attention paid to this, it would not only be the means of saving many lives, but would prevent the necessity of employing men in this indelicate and disagreeable branch of medlcine, which is, on many accounts, more proper for the other sex.

      DURING actual labour, nothing of a heating nature must be given. The woman may, now and then, take a little panado, and her drink ought to be toast and water, or thin groat gruel. Spirits, wines, cordial-waters, and other things which are given with a view to strengthen the mother, and promote the birth, for the most part tend only to increase the fever, inflame the womb, and retard the labour. Besides, they endanger the woman afterwards, as they often occasion violent and mortal haemorrhages, or dispose her to eruptive and other fevers.

      WHEN the labour proves tedious and difficult, to prevent inflammations, it will be proper to bleed. An emollient clyster ought likewise frequently to be administered; and the patient should sit over the steams of warm water. The passage ought to be gently rubbed with a little soft pomatum or fresh butter, and cloths wrung out of warm water applied over the belly. If nature seems to sink, and the woman is greatly exhausted with fatigue, a draught of generous wine, or some other cordial, may be given, but not otherwise. These directions are sufficient in natural labours; and in all preternatural cases, a skilful surgeon, or man-midwife, ought to be called as soon as possible.

      AFTER delivery, the woman ought to be kept as quiet and easy as possible. We cannot help taking notice of that ridiculous custom which still prevails in some parts of the country, of collecting a number of women together upon such occasions. These, instead of being useful, serve only to crowd the house, and obstruct the necessary attendants. Besides, they hurt the patient with their noise and often, by their untimely and impertinent advice, do much mischief. Her food should be light and thin, as gruel, panado, &c. and her drink weak and diluting. To this rule, however, there are many exceptions. I have known several women, whose spirits could not be supported in child-bed without solid food and generous liquors; to such, a glass of wine and a bit of chicken must be allowed.

      SOMETIMES an excessive haemorrhage or flooding happens after delivery. In this case, the patient should be laid with her head low, kept cool, and be in all respects treated as for an excessive flux of the menses. If the flooding proves violent, linen cloths, which have been wrung out of a mixture of equal parts of vinegar and water, or red wine, should be applied to the belly, the loins, and the thighs. These must be changed as they grow dry; and may be discontinued as soon as the flooding abates. In a violent flooding after delivery, I have seen very good effects from the following mixture: Take of penny-royal water, simple cinnamon-water, and syrup of poppies, each two ounces, acid elixir of vitriol a drachm. Mix, and take two table-spoonfuls every two hours, or oftener, if necessary.

      IF there be violent pains after delivery, the patient ought to drink plentifully of warm diluting liquors, as groat-gruel, or tea with a little saffron in it; and to take small broths, with carraway seeds, or a bit of orange-peel in them; an ounce of the oil of sweet almonds may likewise be frequently taken in a cup of any of the above liquors; and if the patient be restless, a spoonful of the syrup of poppies may now and then be mixed with a cup of her drink. If she be hot or feverish, one of the following powders may be taken in a cup of her usual drink, every five or six hours. Take of crabs claws prepared half an ounce, purified nitre two drachms, saffron powdered half a drachm; rub them together in a mortar, and divide the whole into eight or nine doses. When the patient is low-spirited, or troubled with hysterical complaints, she ought to take frequently twelve or fifteen drops of the tincture of asafoetida in a cup of penny-royal tea.

      AN inflammation of the womb is a dangerous and not unfrequent disease after delivery. It is known by pains in the lower part of the belly, which are greatly increased upon touching; by the tension or tightness of the parts; great weakness; change of countenance; a constant fever, with a weak and hard pulse; a slight delirium or raving; sometimes incessant vomiting; a hiccup; a discharge of reddish, stinking, sharp water from the womb; an inclination to go frequently to stool; a heat, and sometimes total suppression of urine.

      THIS must be treated like other inflammatory disorders, by bleeding and plentiful dilution. The drink may be thin gruel or barley-water; in a cup of which half a drachm of nitre may be dissolved, and taken three or four times a-day. Clysters of warm milk and water must be frequently administered; and the belly should be fomented by cloths wrung out of warm water, or by applying bladders filled with warm milk and water to it.

      A suppression of the lochia, or usual discharges after delivery, and the milk-fever, must be treated nearly in the same manner as an inflammation of the womb. In all these cases, the safest course is plentiful dilution, gentle evacuations, and fomentations of the parts affected. In the milk-fever, the breasts may be embrocated with a little warm linseed-oil, or the leaves of red cabbage may be applied to them. The child should be often put to the breast, or it should be drawn by some other person.

      NOTHING would tend more to prevent the milk-fever, than putting the child early to the breast. The custom of not allowing children to suck for the first two or three days, is contrary to Nature and common sense, and is very hurtful to the mother and child.

      EVERY mother who has milk in her breasts, ought either to suckle her own child, or to have her breasts frequently drawn, at least for the first month. This would prevent many of the diseases which prove fatal to women in child-bed.

      WHEN an inflammation happens in the breast, attended with redness, hardness, and other symptoms of suppuration, the safest application is a poultice of bread and milk, softened with oil or fresh butter. This may be renewed twice a-day, till the tumour be either discussed or brought to suppuration. The use of repellents, in this case, is very dangerous; they often occasion fevers, and sometimes cancers; whereas a suppuration is seldom attended with any danger, and has often the most salutary effects.

      WHEN the nipples are fretted or chapt, they may be anointed with a mixture of oil and bees-wax, or a little powdered gum-arabic may be sprinkled on them. I have seen Hungary water applied to the nipples have a very good effect. Should the complaint prove obstinate, a cooling purge may be given, which generally removes it.

      THE miliary fever is a disease incident to women in child-bed: but as it has been treated of already, we shall take no further notice of it. The celebrated Huffman observes, That this is fever of child-bed women might generally be prevented, if they, during their pregnancy, were regular in their diet, used moderate exercise, took now and then a gentle laxative of manna, rhubarb, or cream of tartar, not forgetting to bleed in the first months, and avoid all sharp air. When the labour is coming on, it is not to be hastened with forcing medicines, which inflame the blood and humours, or put them into unnatural commotions. Care should be taken, after the birth, that the natural excretions proceed regularly; and if the pulse be quick, a little nitrous powder, or some other cooling medicines, should be administered.

      THE most fatal disoder consequent upon delivery is the puerperal, or child-bed fever. It generally makes its attack upon the second or third day after delivery. Sometimes indeed it comes on sooner, and at other times, though rarely, it does not appear before the fifth or sixth day.

      IT begins, like most other fevers, with a cold or shivering fit, which is succeeded by restlessness, pain of the head, great sickness at stomach, and bilious vomiting. The pulse is generally quick, the tongue dry, and there is a remarkable depression of spirits and loss of strength. A great pain is usually felt in the back, hips, and region of the womb; a sudden change in the quantity or quality of the lochia also takes place; and the patient is frequently troubled with a tenesmus, or constant inclination to go to stool. The urine, which is very high-coloured, is discharged in small quantity, and generally with pain. The belly sometimes swells to a considerable bulk, and becomes susceptible of pain from the slightest touch. When the fever has continued for a few days, the symptoms of inflammation usually subside, and the disease acquires a more putrid form. At this period, if not sooner, a bilious or putrid looseness, of an obstinate and dangerous nature, comes on, and accompanies the disease through all its future progress.

      THERE is not any disease that requires to be treated with more skill and attention than this; consequently the best assistance ought always to be obtained as soon as possible. In women of plethoric constitutions, bleeding will generally be proper at the beginning. It ought however to be used with caution, and not to be repeated unless where the signs of inflammation rise high; in which case it will also be necessary to apply a blistering plaster to the region of the womb.

      DURING the rigour, or cold fit, proper means should be used to abate its violence, and shorten its duration. For this purpose the patient may drink freely of warm diluting liquors, and, if low, may take now and then a cup of wine-whey; warm applications to the extremities, as heated bricks, bottles or bladders filled with warm water, and such like, may also be used with advantage.

      EMOLLIENT clysters of milk and water, or chicken water, ought to be frequently administered through the course of the disease. These prove beneficial by promoting a discharge from the intestines, and also by acting as a kindly fomentation to the womb and parts adjacent. Great care however is requisite in giving them, on account of the tenderness of the parts in the pelvis at this time.

      TO evacuate the offending bile from the stomach, a vomit is generally given. But as this is apt to increase the irritability of the stomach, already too great, it will be safer to omit it, and to give in its stead a gentle laxative, which will both tend to cool the body, and to procure a free discharge of the bile. Midwives ought to be very cautious in administering vomits or purges to women in child-bed. I have known a woman, who was recovering extremely well, thrown into the most danger, by a strong purge which was given her by an officious midwife.

      THE medicine which I have always found to succeed best in this disease is the saline draught. This, if frequently repeated, will often put a stop to the vomiting, and at the same time lessen the violence of the fever, If it runs off by stool, or if the patient be restless, a few drops of laudanum, or some syrup of poppies, may occasionally be added.

      IF the stools should prove so frequent as to weaken and exhaust the patient, a starch clyster, with thirty or forty drops of laudanum in it, may be administered as occasion shall require; and the drink may be rice-water, in every English pint of which half an ounce of gum-arabic has been dissolved. Should these fail, recourse must be had to Columbo-root, or some other strong astringent.

      THOUGH in general the food ought to be light, and the drink diluting, yet when the disease has been long protracted, and the patient is greatly spent by evacuations, it will be necessary to support her with nourishing diet and generous cordials.

      IT was observed that this fever, after continuing for some time, often acquires a putrid form. In this case the Peruvian bark must be given, either by itself, or joined with cordials, as circumstances may require. As the bark in substance will be apt to purge, it may be given in decoction or infusion, mixed with the tincture of roses, or other gentle astringents: or, a scruple of the extract of bark with half an ounce of spirituous cinnamon-water, two ounces of common water, and ten drops of laudanum, may be made into a draught, and given every second, third, or fourth hour, as shall be found necessary.

      WHEN the stomach will not bear any kind of nourishment, the patient may be supported for some time by clysters of beef-tea, or chicken-water.

      TO avoid this fever, every woman in child-bed ought to be kept perfectly easy; her food should be light, and simple, and her bed-chamber cool, and properly ventilated. There is not any thing hurtful to a woman in this situation than being kept too warm. She ought not to have her body bound too tight, nor to rise too soon from bed, after delivery; catching cold is also to be avoided; and a proper attention should be paid to cleanliness.

      TO prevent the milk-fever, the breasts ought to be frequently drawn; and if they are filled previous to the onset of a fever, they should, upon its first appearance, be drawn, to prevent the milk from becoming acrid, and its being absorbed in this state. Costiveness is likewise to be avoided. This will be best effected by the use of mild clysters and a laxative diet.

      WE shall conclude our observations of child-bed women by recommending it to them, above all things, to beware of cold. Poor women, whose circumstances oblige them to quit their bed too soon, often contract diseases from cold, of which they never recover. It is pity the the poor are not better taken care of in this situation.

      BUT the better sort of women run the greatest hazard from too much heat. They are generally kept in a sort of a bagnio for the first eight or ten days, and then dressed out to see company. The danger of this conduct must be obvious to every one.

      THE superstitious custom of obliging women to keep the house till they go to church, is likewise a very common cause of catching cold. All churches are damp, and most of them cold; consequently they are the very worst places to which a woman can go to make her first visit, after having been confined in a warm room for a month.


      BARRENNESS may be very properly reckoned among the diseases of females, as few married women who have not children enjoy a good state of health. It may proceed from various causes, as high living, grief, relaxation, &c. but it is chiefly owing to an obstruction or irregularity of the menstrual flux.

      IT is very certain that high living vitiates the humours, and prevents fecundity. We seldom find a barren woman among the labouring poor, while nothing is more common among the rich and affluent. The inhabitants of every country are prolific in proportion to their poverty; and it would be an easy matter to adduce many instances of women, who, by being reduced to live entirely upon a milk and vegetable diet, have conceived and brought forth children, though they never had any before. Would the rich use the same sort of food and exercise as the better sort of peasants, they would seldom have cause to envy their poor vassals and dependants the blessing of numerous and healthy offspring, while they pine in sorrow for the want of even a single heir to their extensive domains.

      AFFLUENCE begets indolence, which not only vitiates the humours, but induces a general relaxation of the solids; a state highly unfavourable to procreation. To remove this, we would recommend the following course: First, sufficent exercise in the open air; secondly, a diet consisting chiefly of milk and vegetables; thirdly, the use of astringent medicines, as steel, allum, dragon’s blood, elixir of vitriol, the Spaw or Tunbridge waters, Peruvian bark, &c. and lastly, above all, the cold bath. Dr. Cheyne avers, that want of children is oftener the fault of the male than of the female, and strongly recommends a milk and vegetable diet to the former as well as the latter; adding, that his friend Dr. Taylor, whom he calls the Milk-doctor of Croydon, had brought sundry opulent families in his neighbourhood, who had continued some years after marriage without progeny, to have several fine children, by keeping both parents, for a considerable time, to a milk and vegetable diet.

      BARRENNESS is often the consequence of grief, sudden fear, anxiety, or any of the passions which tend to obstruct the menstrual flux. When barrenness is suspected to proceed from affections of the mind, the person ought to be kept as easy and cheerful as possible; all disagreeable objects are to be avoided, and every method taken to amuse and entertain the fancy.

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