If there are occasions, when the aid of medical knowledge is palpably necessary and efficacious, they present themselves especially in the practice of obstetrics. There, often, the life of one or two individuals, in perfect health, depends on a manoeuver, more or less skillful, or an indication, more or less well fulfilled. Beside, the duty of the accoucheur, or sage-femme, is not limited to watching and giving

assistance in the act of parturition : their care often extends throughout the entire period of gestation and lactation. It is not, then, astonishing, that physicians were occupied, in the earliest times, with this branch of the art, and that legislators have subjected it to special regulations. It may he inferred, that the Asclepiadce did not neglect it, from the simple enumeration of the writings that they have left on the subject.


1. A monograph on Generation.

2. A monograph on the Nature of the Infant.

3. A monograph on Pregnancy, in the seventh month.

4. A monograph on Pregnancy, in the eighth month.

5. A small treatise on Accouchement, entitled, On Stiperfetation ; an excellent abridgement of Obstetrics, for the epoch.

6. A small fragment, on Dentition.

T. IV.

7. The first book of the treatise on Diseases of Women.

8. A fragment, on the Extraction of a Dead Fetus.

The treatise on superfetation does not, in fact, include but a single paragraph that responds to its title ; all the rest is relative to accouchements. We there find a succinct and methodic resume of the knowledge of the Asclepiadae on this subject, and I can not do better than refer to it the reader, who is desirous to inform himself on the state of the art, in the age of Hippocrates. This abridgement is distinguished for its interesting observations, and by the absence of certain barbarous and gross practices, that impair other writings of the same collections.

The practice of sacades, for example, is not mentioned there, which proves that the author did not approve of it ; for he could not have been ignorant of this odd proceeding, which is mentioned in several of the Hippocratic works ; notably in the first book of the treatise on the diseases of women, where it is minutely described.(Oeuvres d' Hippocrate, § 81 de Gardeil)


Apropos to this last treatise, I will observe, that its author, whenever he speaks of matters relating to accouchements, addresses himself to midwives, which makes it probable that the ordinary practice of obstetrics was committed to them, and physicians were only called, in grave or extraordinary cases. 

From History of Medicine by P.V. Renouard M.D.

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