Of Leeches And Babies
Inspired by Dr. Charles' time travels, I give you the OB version. Here's a contemporary description of several 1821 deliveries:
Dr. Campbell, of Edinburgh, states that in October, 1821, he assisted at the post-mortem [autopsy] examination of a patient who died with puerperal fever. He carried the pelvic viscera [internal organs] in his pocket to the class-room. The same evening he attended a woman in labor without previously changing his clothes; this patient died. The next morning he delivered a woman with the forceps; she died also, and of many others who were seized with the disease within a few weeks, three shared the same fate in succession.
In June, 1823, he assisted some of his pupils at the autopsy of a case of puerperal fever. He was unable to wash his hands with proper care, for want of the necessary accommodations. On getting home he found that two patients required his assistance. He went without further ablution or changing his clothes; both these patients died with puerperal fever.
Dr. Charles wants you to consider what doctors had to do before the advent of Tylenol. I'm just glad we no longer carry bits of organs in our pockets when we do a delivery. Although, in the interest of full disclosure, I must admit that I did carry the subject of my first ever dissection [a worm, Lumbricus terrestris] in my school bag. Moreover, I proudly displayed it (thankfully, still in its dissection tray) on the kitchen table, to the not-so-well-disguised horror of my family members.