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Plaster cast of human foetus, Europe, 1871-1900

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Plaster casts such as these were used as teaching aids. This foetus appears to be nearly full term and has its umbilical cord wrapped around its neck. This is common and happens in about a third of births. As the baby moves in the womb it becomes entangled in the cord which is between one and three feet long. This is not necessarily fatal because the cord is a jellylike substance making it hard to compress. However, in severe cases it can cause brain damage or death. It was not possible to assess this condition in the 1800s. Babies are now monitored. Labour can be induced or a caesarean section performed if necessary.

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Glossary: model - representation

Use for a scaled representation of an object or structure, usually three-dimensional. The item is often idealised or modified to make it conceptually easier to understand.

Glossary: anatomy

A branch of medical science concerned with the structure of living organisms.

Glossary: foetus

The name given to the embryo during the later stages of development. In human reproduction it refers to an unborn child from its eighth week of development.