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Midwifery bag, England, 1871-1900

Instruments and medicines that might be required at the birth of a child are contained in this midwifery bag. The heavy leather box is more like a suitcase than a bag. It opens to reveal forceps held in leather straps in the lid, an instrument tin and four small glass bottles - three of which are marked ‘poison’. The instruments indicate the bag was only called on in dire circumstances, for example if the mother’s life was at risk. Craniotomy forceps are also included. These were heavy, toothed or ridged crushing instruments to break up the skull bones of a foetus. A cephalotribe punctured the infant’s skull. The set almost certainly belonged to a male obstetric physician. They were originally known as men-midwives. They were not normally present at routine births. However, they would be called to assist if complications arose. The instruments were made by London-based firm Krohne and Sesemann, founded by Prussian immigrants in the 1860s.

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Glossary: obstetrics

A branch of medicine dealing with the care of women. This care occurs during pregnancy, childbirth, and the period of recovery from childbirth.

Glossary: midwifery bag

No description.