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Smellie-type obstetrical forceps, England, 1751-1800

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William Smellie (1697-1763) described this instrument in 1745. The forceps blades are designed in two curves: the cephalic curve and the pelvic curve. The cephalic curve fits the child’s head. The pelvic curve corresponds to the curve of the mother’s pelvis. The blades fit together in deep notches known as the English Lock. The forceps are made of iron and covered with leather. This made them hard to clean and unhygienic. The leather was sometimes coated with hog’s lard to make them easier to insert.

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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 forceps

An instrument used to assist the delivery of a foetus, usually during a birth where complications have developed. Numerous variations have been developed over time. The fundamental design has two separate looped blades with handles. These interlock to form a grasping instrument.