Obstetrics in the eighteenth century
In the eighteenth century, obstetrics became a special branch of medicine, with a corpus of physiological and practical knowledge sufficient to improve the outcome of childbearing. Until the previous century, the task of assisting women about to give birth had been traditionally entrusted to midwives. Only when the procedure seemed unusually risky did the midwife summon the surgeon, who, as a rule, lacked even the rudiments of female anatomy and of the physiology of childbearing. In the eighteenth century, progress was achieved in the knowledge of the anatomy and physiology of the uterus and childbirth, the first maternity wards were opened in hospitals, and the first obstetrics schools were founded. The same period also saw the emergence of new techniques and the development of instruments that would later come into widespread use, such as the forceps. The two countries where obstetrics flourished most conspicuously in the eighteenth century were France and England. In Italy, Giovanni Antonio Galli was appointed to the first chair in obstetrics, established in Bologna in 1757. Meanwhile, new obstetrics schools opened in Florence and several other cities including Siena, Milan, Padua, and Rome. The same period saw the first production of teaching models to provide surgery students and midwives with three-dimensional illustrations of the anatomy of the pregnant woman, the physiology of childbearing, and potential complications.
Last update 25/gen/2008