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Obstetrical vectis, United Kingdom, 1801-1900

A vectis altered the position of the baby’s head. It also acted as a lever to ease the head out. It was used by obstetric physicians attending the birth of a child. The vectis was Dutch in origin. This 1800s example is spoon-shaped. It is made of steel and ebony with a folding handle. Other designs were originally made of bone or ivory and often covered in leather. This was very unhygienic. It led to many women dying of puerperal fever. This is a fatal form of blood poisoning contracted during the birth from unsanitary instruments.

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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: obstetrical vectis

A simple instrument resembling a single blade of an obstetric forceps. It is used during childbirth to assist the delivery of an obstructed foetus. Also known as ‘levers’.