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where, on the other hand, the child is dead, the scalp will be felt to be soft, flabby, and without swelling. This may be looked upon as a very certain proof of the child's death in primiparæ, where the head is advancing slowly, and where it is tightly encircled by the distended vagina. But in multiparæ, where the soft passages have been dilated by repeated labours, the pressure upon the head is so slight, and its passage through them so rapid, that little or no swelling is produced: even in these cases the finger of the accoucheur will easily distinguish the head of a dead child by the loose yielding flabby feel of its integuments; the cranial bones are more moveable, and overlap each other at the sutures more than usual; their edges feel sharp, as if no longer covered by the scalp; and frequently communicate a grating sensation when they rub against each other. The great fontanelle is flaccid and loose; the bones, which form it, appear falling together, from a want of sufficient contents to keep them asunder, a circumstance which probably arises from the circulation in the brain having ceased; and in those cases where the child has already been dead some time, a crackling or crepitous sensation is communicated to the finger from emphysema, the result of decomposition.
The only case in which the swelling of the head is capable of misleading us, is in lingering difficult labours, where the child has been alive at the beginning; the swelling has formed, but from the duration and severity of the labour the child has died: under such circumstances, a dead child may be born with the usual swelling of the cranial integuments which is observed in a living child. This can only happen where it has been expelled almost immediately after its death, for in two or three hours the swelling loses its former firm tense feel, and becomes so soft and flaccid, as not to be easily mistaken.
If the face presents during labour, the flabby state of the lips will instantly lead us to suspect that the child is dead: the tongue is also flaccid and motionless. Whereas, in a living child the lips are firm and full; if the face be approaching the os externum, a considerable swelling will be felt on that side which presents; the tongue is firm, and frequently moves upon the finger.
If the nates present, the state of the sphincter ani will be a sure guide in ascertaining whether the child be alive or not. If it be alive, it will be found closed, and will contract distinctly upon the finger; whereas, if dead, it will be relaxed, and insensible to the stimulus of the finger.
In an arm presentation, where the child is alive, the arm will swell, and grow livid or nearly black; but if it be dead, no swelling will be observed, the arm will be very flabby, and where it has been dead some time, the epidermis will peel off. In this case, as in head presentations, the date of the child's death will more or less modify these appearances; if it has not taken place until some time after the commencement of labour, a dead child may be born exhibiting the swelling and discolorations above mentioned. The pulse in the wrist of the prolapsed arm is no guide, as the very degree of pressure, which produces these changes in its appearance, will be generally sufficient to render it imperceptible.
In cases where the cord has prolapsed, we have certain evidence with respect to the child's life: if alive, the cord is firm, turgid, and distinctly pulsating; if dead, it is flaccid, empty, and without pulsation.
Fetid liquor amnii, and the discharge of the meconium, have also been enumerated as signs of the child's death, which occur during labour. The first affords no proof whatever, as cases not unfrequently occur in which the liquor amnii is excessively fetid, and of a thick slimy consistence, and yet the child is born alive and healthy.
The appearance of meconium during labour is a suspicious sign where the nates do not present, and will at any rate justify the supposition, that if the child be not actually dead, it is very weakly; in nates presentations, however, this will not hold good, for the meconium is constantly discharged during labour, where the child is in this position, and yet it will be born alive and well.
NATURE AND ORIGIN.-VARIETIES.-DIAGNOSTIC SYMPTOMS.-TREATMENT.
WHEN any cause has occurred to destroy the life of the embryo during the early weeks of pregnancy, one of two results follows, either that expulsion takes place sooner or later, or the membranes of the ovum become remarkably changed, and continue to grow for some time longer, until at length they form a fleshy fibrous mass, called mole, or false conception.*
It is well known that the venous absorbing radicles of the chorion, which give it that shaggy appearance during the first months of pregnancy, are the means by which the embryo is furnished with a due supply of nourishment at this period: if the embryo should die from any cause, and the uterus show no disposition to expel the ovum, the nourishment which has been collected by the absorbing power of the chorion appears now to be directed to the chorion itself, which therefore puts on a fleshy growth, and increases very rapidly in size. (Roederer, Elementa Artis Obstetrica, p. 738.)
In other instances, the thick fleshy character of the ovum is not produced by a growth of substance, but is the result of hæmorrhage from rupture of some of the vessels which run between the uterus and the ovum. In this case, if the placental cells be already formed, they become distended with the blood of the hemorrhage which solidifies by coagulation; and not only render the chorion or incipient placenta much thicker and more solid, but give it also a lobulated tuberculated appearance: from the same reason, the little funis, which is probably not an inch long, is greatly distended, being in some cases as thick as the body of the embryo itself, the blood having penetrated from the placental cells into the cellular tissue of the chord. This is by no means an uncommon form of mole; externally it is covered by the decidua, which appears to be in a natural condition, and the inner surface of the cavity is lined by a fine membrane, having all the usual characters of the amnion. The lobulated appearance is chiefly seen from within, the amnion being raised by a number of irregular convexities.
"When the blood is poured out from its containing vessels into the substance or cells of the placenta, or between the membranes, it gradually coagulates, and assumes a very dark purple, and sometimes almost a melanotic black colour: after a time, however, it begins to lose this tint, the colouring matter gradually becomes removed, and the coagulum succes
Ovum deforme, in quo partes embryonis et secundarum distingui vix possunt, molam vocabimus. (Ræderer, Elementa Artis Obstetricæ, § 738.)
sively assumes a chocolate brown, a reddish or brownish yellow hue; and latterly, if time sufficient be allowed, it presents a pale yellowish white or straw-coloured substance, the fibrinous portion of the coagulum being then left alone."* This form of mole, as far as our own observation goes, seldom attains any considerable size, rarely exceeding four inches in length, and is usually expelled between the eighth and twelfth week. The size and condition of the fœtus varies a good deal: in some cases it appears nearly healthy, although the cord is much thickened and distended; this is probably owing to its having been expelled shortly after its death, or to its having gone on to live a short time after the injury which had caused hæmorrhage: in this way alone can we explain why we occasionally meet with cases where the parietes of the ovum are much thickened and solidified, and yet the embryo is in such a state of integrity as to prove that its death must have been very recent. The extravasation of blood between the ovum and uterus does not appear to be sufficient to annihilate immediately the nutrition of the embryo, so that the blood has had sufficient time to solidify before the ovum was expelled. At other times the embryo exhibits evident marks of having been dead some time: it is much smaller and younger in proportion to the size of the ovum; sometimes it has disappeared entirely, a short rudiment of the funis merely remaining to mark its previous existence.
"Should the embryo die (suppose in the first or second month) some days before the ovum is discharged, it will sometimes be entirely dissolved, so that when the secundines are delivered, there is nothing to be seen. In the first month the embryo is so small and tender, that this dissolution will be performed in twelve hours; in the second month, two, three, or four days will suffice for this purpose. (Smellie.)
Where the growth of the ovum proceeds after the destruction of the embryo, it increases very rapidly in size, much more so than would be the case in natural pregnancy, so that the uterus, when filled with a mole of this sort, is as large at the third month as it would be in pregnancy at the fifth.
Another form of mole is where the uterus is filled with a large mass of vesicles of irregular size and shape, like hydatids, which appear to be the absorbing extremities of the veins of the chorion distended with a serous fluid: it is difficult to distinguish these from real hydatids; the more so, as Bremser asserts that he has occasionally met with real hydatids among them. Perhaps the mode of their attachment will in some degree assist the diagnosis; these vesicles, or hydatids of the placenta, as they have been called, are attached over a large portion of the uterus, an arrangement, we believe, not generally seen in real hydatids, which are mostly attached to a single stalk or pedicle. Indeed, it may be doubted if the masses of vesicles which are occasionally expelled from the uterus are ever true acephalocysts, as they are invariably connected with a blighted ovum, and are, therefore, formed, as before observed, by a dropsical state of the venous radicles of the chorion.
A variety of other molar growths have also been enumerated by authors; in fact, "the term mole has been rather vaguely applied to almost
Dr. J. Y. Simpson on the Diseases of the Placenta. (Edin. Med. and Surg. Journal, April 1, 1836.)
every shapeless mass which issued from the uterus, whether this proved to be coagulated blood, detached tumours, or a blighted conception." (Churchill on the Principal Diseases of Females, p. 153.) Thus a fibrinous cast of the uterus, which has been formed by a coagulum of blood, from which the colouring matter has been drained, has been called a fibrous mole: these, however, may easily be distinguished from real moles, which are invariably the product of conception; from inattention also to this circumstance, fungoid, bony, and calcareous tumours have been described as so many species of moles.*
Diagnostic symptoms. The diagnosis of a mole pregnancy is exceedingly obscure; in fact, for the first eight or ten weeks we know of no symptom by which we can distinguish it from natural pregnancy. As the death of the embryo is intimately connected with the first morbid changes in the condition of the ovum, and in most cases precedes them, the earliest symptoms which can excite our suspicions are those which indicate this event: thus we shall find that the face becomes pale and chlorotic, the digestion deranged, the breasts flaccid, with unusual lassitude, debility, and depression of spirits; many of the sympathetic affections which belong to early pregnancy, such as the morning sickness, nausea, &c., cease suddenly; in some cases, an attack of hæmorrhage comes on, and may be repeated several times, causing much loss of strength and exhaustion, and attended with a good deal of pain, more especially if the uterus be about to throw off its contents. In that form of mole where the parietes of the ovum have been thickened and lobulated by masses of coagulated blood, the uterus undergoes little or no more increase of size, but the mole, especially the hydatic, continues to grow rapidly; and the unusual increase in the size of the abdomen, as already mentioned, will be an additional reason for suspicion. In all cases, hæmorrhage sooner or later makes its appearance, the patient's health still further declines, leucorrhoea comes on, followed by edema of the feet, general breaking up of the health, and even incipient cachexia. Occasionally the discharge is excessively putrid and offensive. Where it is of the hydatic species, we can frequently ascertain its character by the expulsion of two or three hydatids which have separated from the main mass, or by the escape of some limpid colourless water resulting from the rupture of one or more of them. The expulsion of the mole itself clears up all doubts.
The amount of hæmorrhage will chiefly depend upon the extent of surface by which the mole is attached to the uterus; hence it is observed to be greatest in cases of hydatic mole, from the large size of the mass to be expelled: indeed, under these circumstances, it is frequently more profuse than hæmorrhage from detachment of the placenta. The process of the expulsion itself resembles that of an abortion: pain in the back, groins, and lower part of the abdomen comes on, with more or less discharge of blood; at length bearing down pains succeed, and the mass is expelled.
"One must be careful not to mistake these clots of blood which, being washed by the reddish serosities which flow from the womb, harden in the vagina, or womb itself, and look exactly like false conceptions." (La Motte.)
"Every mole is a blighted ovum which has been the product of conception. We are not justified in classing under the head of moles every mass which is produced and lodged within the uterus." (Froriep's Handbuch der Geburtshilfe, § 180.)