Page images
PDF
EPUB

palpitation, are relieved by aperient medicines; that toothach may be relieved, or even removed, by occasional doses of carbonate of soda, or by blue pill and aperient tonics. Indeed, it is a question, in many cases, whether it is proper to extract a carious tooth under these circumstances, for the shock which it produces is sometimes so great as to run the risk of exciting abortion; and in many instances we might extract every tooth on the painful side, and yet not relieve the suffering which arises from nervous pain induced by gastric irritation, and, if carefully examined, the pain will be found to be not confined to a single tooth, but to spread over the whole side of the face, darting from the edge of the ear, and extending even to the forehead. The breath is usually sour, and the acid state of the saliva is indicated by the instantaneous reddening of litmus paper laid upon the tongue; in many cases there is at the same time a considerable deposite of lithic acid observed in the urine.

Spasmodic cough, or palpitation, if allowed to continue, may ultimately bring on abortion. The treatment just detailed is equally applicable here, and if the circulation be at all excited, blood-letting will prove useful. In bleeding women at this early stage of pregnancy it is not desirable, or even safe, to draw a large quantity suddenly from the system, as it may greatly endanger the life of the foetus, and, from the state of the nervous irritability, may even run the risk of bringing on convulsions; syncope is always more or less hazardous to a pregnant woman, and should, if possible, be avoided. Some caution will be also necessary in our choice of aperient medicines; drastic purgatives, as aloes, colocynth, scammony, &c. are not suited to the state of pregnancy, as they irritate the lower bowels, and thus excite a disposition to uterine contraction; mild, but effectual laxatives, such as castor oil, confectio sennæ, a Seidlitz powder, are better adapted; the latter especially will be found useful, as, from its being taken during effervescence, it is better calculated to quiet the stomach.

Diarrhea is sometimes an exceedingly troublesome symptom during pregnancy. It not only weakens the patient, and thus tends indirectly to induce abortion, by destroying the life of the fœtus, but it acts also in a more direct manner by exciting uterine contractions, particularly when accompanied, as is frequently the case, with tenesmus. The diarrhoea which is met with in pregnant women is not so frequently as has been supposed the result of irritation from the uterus, producing simply an increased peristaltic action of the bowels without any considerable derangement of their functions; by far the most usual form is connected with a very deranged state of the alimentary canal: the evacuations are offensive, and generally very acrid; the liver is torpid, or secretes an unhealthy bile, so that at length a state approaching to dysentery is produced. Even if the patient go to the full term of utero-gestation, she is much reduced, and is ill able to make those exertions which will be required during labour. If the motions, though frequent, are scanty in proportion to the ingesta, or if scybala are occasionally expelled, one or two doses of castor oil will be required; a few drops of Liq. Opii Sedativ. may be added with advantage, to allay the irritability of the bowels; after which, equal parts of blue pill, or Hydr. c. Cretâ, and Dover's powder, will excite the liver to a healthier action, and still farther control their inordinate activity. If the disposition to tenesmus be troublesome, a small injection of starch and

opium will afford relief. If the stomach will bear it, a rice-milk diet for a day or two is desirable; it is a gentle demulcent to the irritable intestines, and has a slightly constipating effect.

Pruritus pudendi to a very distressing degree occasionally comes on during pregnancy, and though in most instances a very manageable form of disease, yet if its nature be not properly understood, it proves exceedingly obstinate, and much suffering is the result. It appears to be essentially different from the common prurigo, being an aphthous state of the lining membrane of the vagina and skin which covers the perineum and external organs. There is great heat and redness of the parts, which are more or less swollen, and from the scratching which the intense itching demands, the cuticle, where it has been raised by the pustules, becomes abraded, so that severe excoriations, and, where there has not been sufficient attention to cleanliness, even ulcerations may be produced. The pustules on the external parts frequently attain a considerable size, being more distinct than in the vagina, which is usually incrusted with one confluent mass of aphtha; whereas, on the perineum and margins of the labia we have seen them as large as peas. These cases for the most part yield to the tepid Goulard lotion, or solution of borax.

Where the patient is plethoric, and the system in a state of considerable excitement from the irritation, blood-letting will be necessary, followed by cooling saline laxatives; and if there be much inflammation of the parts, leeches will prove of great service. In every case the bowels ought to be attended to, for constipation will greatly increase the inflammation and the obstinacy of the disease. It is to Dr. Dewees that we are indebted for first pointing out the real cause and nature of this troublesome affection.*

Aphthæ of the vagina are not unfrequently met with in cases of uterine disease, where the discharge is extremely acrid, but the prominent symptom, viz. the intense pruritus, is absent. The aphthous vagina of pregnancy is not a common affection.

Salivation is another affection which is occasionally, though rarely, met with in pregnancy. It is usually attended with morning sickness, constant nausea, and deranged bowels, and may reduce the patient excessively attention to the state of the bowels, followed by gentle alteratives and tonics, generally gives relief.

* See Treatise on the Diseases of Females, 6th ed. p. 46.-Ed.

CHAPTER III.

SIGNS OF THE DEATH OF THE FETUS.

DIFFICULTY OF THE SUBJECT.-SIGNS BEFORE LABOUR-MOTION OF THE FŒTUS.SOUND OF THE FŒTAL HEART.-UTERUS SOUFFLE.-SIGNS DURING LABOUR WHERE THE HEAD PRESENTS.-WHERE THE FACE, THE NATES, THE ARM, OR THE CORD, PRESENT.— FETID LIQUOR AMNII.-DISCHARGE OF MECONIUM.

WELL has the celebrated Mauriceau observed, "S'il y a occasion où le chirurgien doive faire plus grande reflexion, et apporter plus de précaution aux choses qui concernent son art, c'est en celle où il s'agit de juger si l'enfant qui est dans la matrice est vivant, ou bien s'il est mort." There are few circumstances more painful to the feelings of an accoucheur, than the uncertainty as to whether the child be alive or dead, in a labour where the passage of the head is rendered unusually difficult or dangerous for the mother, even with the aid of the forceps; whether the difficulty be produced by want of proportion between the head and pelvis, unusual rigidity of the os uteri, &c. Could he assure himself that it was alive, he would feel justified in either trusting still longer to the efforts of nature, or in applying the forceps, even although he knows that the delivery cannot be effected without considerable difficulty and suffering: whereas, if he could once feel satisfied that the child had ceased to exist, he would have recourse to perforation, for the purpose of diminishing the size of the head, and thus releasing the mother from the dangers of her situation.

The increasing success which has attended the Cæsarean operation of late years, adds still more to the importance of having the signs of the child's life or death in utero carefully investigated and understood; for, under such circumstances, it becomes a most serious question whether we are always justified in destroying the life of the fœtus by perforation, when we might in all probability have saved it by resorting to another means of delivery, which, formidable as it is, is now infinitely less so than it was in former times. It becomes a question whether we ought not, in certain cases, to adopt the same indications for performing the Cæsarean operation, as are used upon the Continent, and apply it not only to those cases where the child cannot be delivered per vias naturales, but also in those cases of minor pelvic obstruction, where, if we could feel sure of the child's death, we should have recourse to perforation. Under circumstances of this nature, the question becomes one of fearful responsibility, the painfulness of which is not a little increased by the uncertainty as to whether the child be alive or not. Mauriceau was the first author who devoted a chapter expressly to the consideration of this subject, and those few who have

done the same since his time, have borrowed largely from his observations.

A great number of symptoms have been enumerated as indicating the child's death in utero, but for the most part they are deserving of very little confidence, frequently occurring where the result of labour has shown the child to be alive and strong, or vice versa. The most practical arrangement of these symptoms will, we think, be under the two following heads: those which occur before labour, and those which occur during labour.

The symptoms of the child's death, which are usually enumerated as occurring before labour, are cessation of the child's movements; the abdomen undergoes no farther increase of size, but rather diminishes; the uterus has no longer the tense elastic feel of pregnancy, but becomes flaccid and moveable; the patient has a sensation of coldness and weight in the abdomen, so that when she turns from one side to the other, she feels as if a heavy weight rolled over to that part of the abdomen which is lowest; the breasts are flabby, and sometimes there is a fetid slimy discharge from the vagina. These changes are accompanied by some or all of the following symptoms: the patient is seized with a sudden shivering, languor, and debility; she loses her appetite and spirits; the stomach and bowels become disordered; the breath is fetid, and the face pale, sallow, and of a dark leaden colour under the eyes. All these symptoms taken collectively will enable us to decide, with a tolerable degree of certainty, that the child is dead: but scarcely any of them alone can be trusted to. The most trust-worthy is the sensation of a heavy weight rolling about the abdomen: when the female turns in bed, rises from her chair, or in any way alters her position, this weight is felt as it were tumbling down. to that side which is lowest. A woman who is pregnant with a living child, feels nothing of the sort; she may even dance or jump, and yet she feels no more of a living fœtus than she does of her own liver or spleen. The living fœtus obeys the laws of organic life; the dead fœtus those of gravity. When once the child has ceased to exist, it acts like any other mass of inanimate matter, and pushes the uterus down to that side which is lowest.

In most instances this symptom will be sufficient to make us suspect that the child is dead, but it now and then occurs where the result of labour proves the child to be alive; this must rather be looked upon as an exception to the rule, for it is not of frequent occurrence. We have observed it in two or three cases: it has been also noticed by Dr. E. Kennedy, (op. cit.;) and, therefore, cannot invariably be looked upon as a certain sign of the child's death. We have observed it frequently in cases threatening abortion at an early period: in many it has been followed by premature expulsion, but in others the symptom has gradually disappeared as the health improves, and the patient has eventually been delivered of a living child at the full period.

In these cases, we should rather attribute the source of this symptom to a loss of the firmness and tone peculiar to the uterine parietes during pregnancy, and which depends upon the increased activity of the circulation in them at this period: when this is considerably diminished, the uterine parietes will necessarily become more flaccid, and, therefore, less able to withstand the influence of gravity, or sustain the uterus in its pro

per situation. The embryo itself during the first two or three months is too small and too light to produce this symptom itself.

The sensation (to the mother) of the child's movements is as fallacious an indication of the child's life as it is of pregnancy; nor can the absence of this sensation be looked upon as a proof of its death. Women are very liable to be misled in this respect; so much so, that it will be much safer for the practitioner never to allow his diagnosis to be at all influenced by their statements; the more so, as it applies equally to mothers of large families as to primiparæ. Thus cases every now and then occur where the patient declares her conviction that the child is dead; that she has not felt it move for several days before labour; that she feels altogether differently to what she did in any of her former pregnancies, and yet she is delivered of a healthy living child. On the other hand, we as frequently meet with cases where, up to the very commencement of labour, the patient asserts that she has distinctly felt the motion of the child, and yet she brings forth a child in such a state of decomposition as proves beyond all doubt that it must have been dead some eight, ten, or more days.

As the sound of the foetal heart is the surest sign of pregnancy, so it is an equally certain proof of the child's life: but is the absence of this sound a certain symptom of its death? at the best it is a negative evidence, and the value of it must entirely depend upon the skill of the auscultator and the care with which he makes his examination. If, after repeated and careful auscultation of the abdomen, the well-practised ear can no where detect a trace of the foetal pulsations, it may be asserted on very safe grounds that the foetus has ceased to live. This is more particularly the case during the last weeks of pregnancy, when the pulsations are stronger, and the bulk of the child, in proportion to that of the liquor amnii being absolutely, as well as relatively, greater. The distance between the heart and surface of the abdomen is less during the last weeks of pregnancy also; the child's movements are not so free as at an earlier period; and hence, if the foetal heart is beating, it will be more easily discovered.

The uterine souffle affords us little aid in the diagnosis of the child's death it is frequently very distinct when the child is evidently alive; and where it has been heard previous to its death, it will continue for some hours afterwards, although with diminished strength and over a smaller space.

During labour there are a variety of symptoms, by the aid of which we can pronounce, with a very tolerable degree of certainty, whether the child is alive or not: if alive, the foetal heart can invariably be detected; and, for the reasons above stated, will be heard more distinctly than in the earlier months of pregnancy. If, from the violence or duration of the labour, or any other cause, the child is becoming exhausted, the pulsations become weaker and slower until they stop; so that by the aid of auscultation we possess distinct evidence of the child's life being endangered, and of its complete extinction.

If the head presents during labour, a firm elastic swelling (caput succedaneum) will rise on that portion of it which first enters the vagina: this is produced by the circulation in the presenting part of the scalp being obstructed by the pressure which the os uteri and vagina exert upon it, an effect which can only be produced upon the head of a living child:

« PreviousContinue »