The Works of Aristotle the Famous Philosopher

Page 31 of 76

My design in this treatise being brevity, I shall bring forward a little of what the learned have said of the causes of twins, and whether there be any such things as superfoetations, or a second conception in a woman (which is yet common enough), and as to twins, I shall have occasion to speak of them when I come to show you how the midwife ought to proceed in the delivery of the women that are pregnant with them. But having already spoken of conception, I think it now necessary to show how such as have conceived ought to order themselves during their pregnancy, that they may avoid those inconveniences, which often endanger the life of the child and many times their own.

A woman, after conception, during the time of her being with child, ought to be looked upon as indisposed or sick, though in good health; for child bearing is a kind of nine months' sickness, being all that time in expectation of many inconveniences which such a condition usually causes to those that are not well governed during that time; and therefore, ought to resemble a good pilot, who, when sailing on a rough sea and full of rocks, avoids and shuns the danger, if he steers with prudence, but if not, it is a thousand to one but he suffers shipwreck. In like manner, a woman with child is often in danger of miscarrying and losing her life, if she is not very careful to prevent those accidents to which she is subject all the time of her pregnancy. All which time her care must be double, first of herself, and secondly of the child she goes with for otherwise, a single error may produce a double mischief; for if she receives a prejudice, the child also suffers with her. Let a woman, therefore, after conception, observe a good diet, suitable to her temperament, custom, condition and quality; and if she can, let the air where she ordinarily dwells be clear and well tempered, and free from extremes, either of heat or cold; for being too hot, it dissipateth the spirits too much and causes many weaknesses; and by being too cold and foggy, it may bring down rheums and distillations on the lungs, and so cause her to cough, which, by its impetuous motion, forcing downwards, may make her miscarry. She ought alway to avoid all nauseous and ill smells; for sometimes the stench of a candle, not well put out, may cause her to come before time; and I have known the smell of charcoal to have the same effect. Let her also avoid smelling of rue, mint, pennyroyal, castor, brimstone, etc.

But, with respect to their diet, women with child have generally so great loathings and so many different longings, that it is very difficult to prescribe an exact diet for them. Only this I think advisable, that they may use those meats and drinks which are to them most desirable, though, perhaps, not in themselves so wholesome as some others, and, it may be not so pleasant; but this liberty must be made use of with this caution, that what they desire be not in itself unwholesome; and also that in everything they take care of excess. But, if a child-bearing woman finds herself not troubled with such longings as we have spoken of, let her take simple food, and in such quantity as may be sufficient for herself and the child, which her appetite may in a great measure regulate; for it is alike hurtful to her to fast too long as to eat too much; and therefore, rather let her eat a little and often; especially let her avoid eating too much at night, because the stomach being too much filled, compresseth the diaphragm, and thereby causeth difficulty of breathing. Let her meat be easy of digestion, such as the tenderest parts of beef, mutton, veal, fowls, pullets, capons, pigeons and partridges, either boiled or roasted, as she likes best, new laid eggs are also very good for her; and let her put into her broth those herbs that purify it, as sorrel, lettuce, succory and borage; for they will purge and purify the blood. Let her avoid whatever is hot seasoned, especially pies and baked meats, which being of hot digestion, overcharge the stomach. If she desire fish let it be fresh, and such as is taken out of rivers and running streams. Let her eat quinces and marmalade, to strengthen her child: for which purpose sweet almonds, honey, sweet apples, and full ripe grapes, are also good. Let her abstain from all salt, sour, bitter and salt things, and all things that tend to provoke the terms—such as garlic, onions, mustard, fennel, pepper and all spices except cinnamon, which in the last three months is good for her. If at first her diet be sparing, as she increases in bigness, let her diet be increased, for she ought to consider that she has a child as well as herself to nourish. Let her be moderate in her drinking; and if she drinks wine, let it be rather claret than white (for it will breed good blood, help the digestion, and comfort the stomach, which is weakly during pregnancy); but white wine being diuretic, or that which provokes urine, ought to be avoided. Let her be careful not to take too much exercise, and let her avoid dancing, riding in a coach, or whatever else puts the body into violent motion, especially in the first month. But to be more particular, I shall here set down rules proper for every month for the child-bearing woman to order herself, from the time she first conceived, to the time of her delivery.

Rules for the First Two Months.

As soon as a woman knows, or has reason to believe, that she has conceived, she ought to abstain from all violent motions and exercise; whether she walks afoot, or rides on horseback or in a coach, it ought to be very gently. Let her also abstain from Venery (for which, after conception, she has usually no great inclination), lest there be a mole or superfoetation, which is the adding of one embryo to another. Let her beware not to lift her arms too high, nor carry great burdens, nor repose herself on hard and uneasy seats. Let her use moderately good, juicy meat and easy of digestion, and let her wines be neither too strong nor too sharp, but a little mingled with water; or if she be very abstemious, she may use water wherein cinnamon has been boiled. Let her avoid fastings, thirst, watchings, mourning, sadness, anger, and all other perturbations of the mind. Let no one present any strange or unwholesome thing to her, nor so much as name it, lest she should desire it and not be able to get it, and so either cause her to miscarry, or the child to have some deformity on that account. Let her belly be kept loose with prunes, raisins or manna in her broth, and let her use the following electuary, to strengthen the womb and the child—

"Take conserve of borage, buglos and roses, each two ounces; an ounce of balm; an ounce each of citron peel and shreds, candied mirobalans, an ounce each; extract of wood aloes a scruple; prepared pearl, half a drachm; red coral and ivory, of each a drachm; precious stones each a scruple; candied nutmegs, two drachms, and with syrup of apples and quinces make an electuary."

Let her observe the following rules.

"Take pearls prepared, a drachm; red coral and ivory prepared, each half a drachm, precious stones, each a scruple; yellow citron peel, mace, cinnamon, cloves, each half a drachm; saffron, a scruple; wood aloes, half a scruple; ambergris, six drachms; and with six ounces of sugar dissolved in rosewater make rolls." Let her also apply strengtheners of nutmeg, mace and mastich made up in bags, to the navel, or a toast dipped in malmsey, or sprinkled with powdered mint. If she happens to desire clay, chalk, or coals (as many women with child do), give her beans boiled with sugar, and if she happens to long for anything that she cannot obtain, let her presently drink a large draught of pure cold water.

Rules for the Third Month.

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