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Copy of Chamberlen obstetric forceps, original dated 1600s

The blades of these innovative obstetric forceps cross like scissors. They are separated so they can be inserted one at a time. They are then rejoined with a rivet or a thong. Obstetric forceps grip the baby’s head during childbirth. The modern use of such forceps lies with those designed and used by the Chamberlen family from the late 1600s. The Chamberlens were successful men-midwives. However, they kept the design of their instruments secret for well over a century.

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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.