The Works of Aristotle - DIRECTIONS FOR CHILD-BEARING WOMEN IN THEIR LYING-IN.

DIRECTIONS FOR CHILD-BEARING WOMEN IN THEIR LYING-IN.

 

IN the fourth, fifth and six chapters, we have treated at large of women's labour, and how they may be safely delivered both in natural and unnatural labours. Having therefore thus brought a good woman to bed, I will in this chapter direct how she ought to be ordered in her lying-in.

 

SECT. II. How a Woman newly delivered ought to be ordered.

As soon as she is laid in her bed, let her be placed in it conveniently for ease and rest, which she stand in great need of, to recover herself of the great fatigue she underwent during her travail; and that she may lie the more easily, let her head and body be a little raised, that she may breathe more freely, and cleanse the better, especially of that blood which then comes away, that so it may not clot, which being retained causeth very great pain.

Having thus placed her in bed, let her drink a draught of burnt white wine, when you have first melted therein a dram of spermaceti. The herb vervain is also a most singular herb for a woman in this condition, boiling it in what she either eats or drinks, fortifying the womb so exceedingly, that it will do it more good in two days, having no offensive taste, though very pleasant virtues. And this is no more than what she stands in need of, for her lower parts being greatly distended to the birth of the infant, it is good to endeavour the prevention of an inflammation there. Let there be also outwardly applied all over the bottom of the belly and the privities the following anodyne or cataplasm: Take two ounces of oil of sweet almonds, and two or three new laid eggs, yolk and whites, stirring them together in an earthen pipkin over hot embers, till it comes to the consistence of a poultice; which being spread upon a cloth, must be applied to those parts indifferently warm, having first taken away the closures (which were put to her presently after her delivery), and likewise such clots of blood as were then left. Let this lie on five or six hours, and then renew it again as you see cause.

Great care ought to be taken at first, that if her body be very weak, she be not kept too hot, for extremity of heat weakens nature and dissolves the strength; and whether she be weak or strong, be sure that no cold air come near her at first, for cold is an enemy to the spermatic parts, and if it gets into the womb it increases the after-pains, causes swellings in the womb, and hurts the nerves. As to her diet, let it be hot, and let her eat but little at a time. Let her avoid the light for the three first days and longer if she be weak, for her labour weakens her eyes exceedingly, by a harmony between the womb and them. Let her also avoid great noise, sadness, and trouble of mind.

If the womb be foul, which may be easily perceived by the impurity of the blood (which will then either come away in clots or stinking, or if you suspect any of the after-burden to be left behind, which may sometimes happen), make her drink of featherfew, mugwort, pennyroyal, and mother of thyme, boiled in white wine, sweetened with sugar.

Panady and new laid eggs is the best meat for her at first, of which she may eat often, but not too much at a time.

And let her nurse use cinnamon in all her meats and drinks, for it is a great strengthener to the womb.

Let her stir as little as may be till after the fifth, sixth, or seventh days of her delivery, if she be weak. And let her talk as little as may be, for that weakens her.

If she goes not well to stool, give a clyster made only with the decoction of mallows and a little brown sugar.

When she hath lain a week or something more, let her use such things as close the womb, of which knot grass and comfrey are very good; and to them you may add a little polipodium, for it will do her good, both leaves and roots being bruised.

 

SECT. III. How to remedy those accidents which a Lying-in Woman is subject to.

I. The first common and usual accident that troubles women in their lying-in is after-pains; about the cause whereof physicians make no small stir, some affirming one thing to be the cause, and some another: but it is most certain that they proceed from cold and wind contained in the bowels, with which they are easily filled after labour, because there they have more room to dilate than when the child was in the womb, by which they were compressed; and also because nourishment and matter contained as well in them as in the stomach, have been so confusedly agitated from side to side during the pains of labour, by the throws which always must compress the belly, that they could not be well digested, whence this wind is afterwards generated, and by consequence the gripes which the woman feels running into her belly from side to side, according as the wind moves more or less, and sometimes likewise from the womb, because of the compression and commotion which the bowels make: These being generally the cause, let us now apply a suitable remedy.

1. Boil an egg soft, and pour out the yolk of it, with which mix a spoonful of cinnamon water, and let her drink it; and if you mix in it two grains of ambergrease it will be the better; and yet vervain taken in any thing she drinks will be as effectual as the other.

2. Give the lying-in woman, immediately after delivery, oil of sweet almonds and syrup of maiden-hair mixed together. Some prefer oil of walnuts, provided it be made of nuts that are very good, but tastes worse than the other at the best. This will lenify the inside of the intestines by its unctuousness, and by that means bring away that which is contained in them more easily.

3. Take and boil onions very well in water, then stamp them with oil and cinnamon, and seed in powder; spread them upon a cloth, and apply them to the region of the womb.

4. Let her be careful to keep her belly very hot, and not to drink too cold; and, if they prove very violent, hot cloths from time to time must be laid to her belly, or a pancake fried in walnut oil may be applied to it without swathing her belly too straight. And for the better evacuating the wind out of the intestines, give her a clyster, which may be repeated as often as necessity requires.

5. Take bay berries, beat them to powder, put the powder upon a chafing-dish of coals, and let her receive the smoke of them up her privities.

6. Take tar and barrows grease, of each an equal quantity, boil them together, and whilst it is boiling, add a little pigeon's dung to it. Spread some of this upon a linen cloth, and apply it to the reins of the back of her that is troubled with after-pains, and it will give her speedy ease.

Lastly, let her take half a dram of bay berries beaten into a powder in a draught of muscadel or tent.

 

II. Another accident to which women in child-bed are subject is, the haemorrhoids, or piles, occasioned through their great straining in bringing the child into the world. To cure this,

1. Let her be let blood in the vein caphaena.

2. Let her use polypodium in her meat and drink, bruised and boiled.

3. Take an onion, and having made a hole in the middle of it, fill it full of oil, roast it, and having bruised it all together, apply it to the fundament.

4. Take a dozen of snails without shells, if you can get them, or else so many shell snails, and put them out, and having bruised them with a little oil, apply them warm to the fundament.

5. Take as many wood-lice as you can get, and bruise them, and having mixed them with a little oil, apply them warm as before.

6. If she go well to stool, let her take an ounce of cassia fistula drawn at night going to bed; she needs no change of diet after.

 

III. Retention of the menstrues is another accident happening to women in child-bed; and which is of so dangerous a consequence, that, if not timely remedied, it proves mortal. Where this happens,

1. Let the woman take such medicines as strongly provoke the terms, and such are dittany, betony, pennyroyal, savory, feverfew, centaury, juniper berries, peony roots.

2. Let her take two or three spoonfuls of briony water each morning.

3. Gentian roots beaten into a powder, and a dram of them taken every morning in wine, is an extraordinary remedy.

4. The roots of birthwort, either long or round, so used and taken as the former, is very good.

5. Take twelve peony seeds, and beat them into very fine powder, and let her drink them in a draught of hot cardus posset, and let her sweat after. And if this last medicine don't bring them down the first time she takes it, let her take as much more three hours after, and it seldom fails.

 

IV. Overflowing of the menstrues is another accident incidental to child-bed women.

1. Take shepherd's purse, either boiled in any convenient liquor, or dried and beaten into powder, and it will be an admirable remedy to stop them, this being especially appropriate to the privities.

2. The flowers and leaves of bramble, or either of them, being dried and beaten into powder, and a dram of them taken every morning in a spoonful of red wine or in a decoction of the leaves of the same (which perhaps is much better), is an admirable remedy for the immoderate flowing of the terms in women.

 

V. Excoriations, bruises, and rents of the lower part of the womb, are often occasioned by the violent distention and separation of the four curuncles in a woman's labour. For the healing whereof,

As soon as the woman is laid, if there be only simple contusions and excoriations, then let the anodyne cataplasm, formerly directed be applied to the lower parts, to ease the pain, made of the yolks and whites of new laid eggs, and oil of roses boiled a little over warm embers, continually stirring it till it be equally mixed, and then spread upon a fine cloth; it must be applied very warm to the bearing place for five or six hours, and when it is taken away, lay some fine rags dipped in oil of St. John's wort, on each side of the bearing place, or let the part excoriated be anointed with oil of St. John's wort twice or thrice a day; also foment the parts with barley-water and honey of roses to cleanse them from excrements which pass. When the woman makes water, let them be defended with fine rags, and thereby hinder the urine from causing smart or pain.

 

VI. The curdling and clotting of the milk is another accident that often happens to women in child-bed; for in the beginning of child-bed the woman's milk is not purified because of the great commotions her body suffered during her labour, which affected all the parts, and it is then mixed with many other humours. Now this clotting of milk does for the most part proceed from the breasts not being fully drawn, and that either because she hath too much milk, and that the infant is too small and weak to suck all, or because she doth not desire to be a nurse, for the milk in those cases remaining in the breast after concoction without being drawn, loseth the sweetness and the balsamatic quality it had, and by reason of the heat it acquires, and the too long stay it makes there, it sours, curdles, and clots, in like manner as we see rennet put into ordinary milk turns it into curds. This curdling of the milk may be also caused by having taken a cold, and not keeping the breast well covered.

But from what causes soever, this curdling of the milk proceeds, the most certain remedy is, speedily to draw the breasts until they are emitted and dried. But in regard to the infant, by reason of weakness it cannot draw strong enough, the woman being hard marked when her milk is curdled, it will be most proper to get another woman to draw her beasts until the milk comes and then she may give her child suck. And that she may not afterwards be troubled with a surplus of milk, she must eat such diet as gives but little nourishment, and that she keep her body open.

But if the case be such that the woman neither can nor will be a nurse, it is then necessary to apply other remedies for the curing of this distemper. For then it will be best not to draw her breast, for that will be the way to draw more milk into them; for which purpose it will be necessary to empty the body by bleeding in the arm; besides which, let the humours be drawn down by strong clysters and bleeding in the foot, nor will it be amiss to purge gently; and to digest, dissolve, and dissipate the curdled milk, apply the cataplasm of pure honey or that of the sour brains dissolved in a decoction of sage, milk smallage, and fennel, mixing with it oil of camomile, with which oil let the breasts be also well anointed. This following liniment is also good to scatter and dissipate the milk.

 

A Liniment to scatter and dissipate the Milk.

That the milk flowing back to the breasts may without offence be dissipated, you must use this ointment: "Take pure wax two ounces, or linseed oil half a pound; when the wax is melted, let the liniment be made, wherein linen cloths must be dipped, and according to their largeness, be laid upon the breast; and when it shall be discussed and pains no more, let other linen cloths be dipped in the distilled water of acorns, and put upon them."

Note, that the cloths dipped in the distilled water of acorns must be used only by these that cannot nurse their own children; but if a swelling in the breasts of them which gave suck do arise from abundance of milk, and threatens an inflammation, let them use the former ointment, but abstain from using the distilled water of acorns.

 

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