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Sunday, 18 September 2011

Ladies: Pregnancy in 1911 - How to Dress, Cure Burning Feet and Manage Hysteria

Who'd know that 'Tokology' is the science of obstetrics and midwifery? The author of the book of that name certainly did. She was Alice B Stockham from Chicago, the fifth woman to become a doctor in the USA. Born 1833, died 1912, the year after the book was published.

Tokology is an amazing collection of advice for the time. It covers aspects of pregnancy including how to dress, conception, foetal growth, diet, physical and psychological health issues, hygiene, birth itself and afterwards, and 'diseases of women'. Its style is chatty and very accessible.

Here are brief quotes about some of these areas.

How to Dress 
If women could be made to understand what is gained by absolutely dressing the waist free from any pressure or constriction, we could predict a near millennium of safety and freedom of pain in childbirth. It (is) hopeless to convince any lady that the bands of her skirts and drawers are any detriment to her in the performance of natural functions.

Burning Feet
Best relieved by bathing them in very hot water. A sand bath, too, is excellent. Have a box of moist sand, in which bury the feet for thirty or forty minutes.

Hysteria (Stockham sees the same root here as in hysterectomy)
Hysteria is only a culmination or exaggeration of the reflex or nervous symptoms in diseases of the uterus. It is simply temporary insanity. Some quiet, decisive means will restore her. Inhalation of ammonia, cold water on the head, a hot foot bath ... readily establishes her balance. Banish agitation from your manner, and then say ... "Why, you are all right!" Get her attention, then with tact relate some incident, or make some startling statement. To prevent the attacks, treat the uterine affection from which they arise.

Frequent bathing in pregnancy is of the greatest importance. The sponge or towel bath, taken two or three times a week, is stimulating and invigorating. It should be followed by friction with a Turkish towel  or coarse mitten. Foot and leg baths... taken warm they will relieve nervousness, sleeplessness and irritability.

Colic, Neuralgia and Inflammation
The very best method of making hot applications is by means of the rubber "hot water bottle". No well regulated family should be without a hot water bottle.

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If anyone should require more helpful advice, just let me know! Seriously, though, much of Stockham's advice is still practised now and considered sound - although I'm not sure that the sand bath would help, even if we had 30 or 40 minutes to spare. Still, that's the sort of situation for which laptops were created.

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