The Works of Aristotle the Famous Philosopher

Page 34 of 76

(4) The fourth, and last covering of the child is called amnios; and it is white, soft and transparent, being nourished by some very small veins and arteries. Its use is, not only to enwrap the child, but also to retain the sweat of the child.

Having thus described the parts proper to a child in the womb, I will next proceed to speak of the formation of the child therein, as soon as I have explained the hard terms of the section, that those for whose help it is designed, may understand what they read. A vein is that which receives blood from the liver, and distributes in several branches to all parts of the body. Nerve is the same with sinew, and is that by which the brain adds sense and motion to the body. Placenta, properly signifies sugar cake; but in this section it is used to signify a spongy piece of flesh resembling a cake, full of veins and arteries, and is made to receive a mother's blood appointed for the infant's nourishment in the womb. The chorion is an outward skin which compasseth the child in the womb. The amnios is the inner skin which compasseth the child in the womb. The alantois is the skin that holds the urine of the child during the time that it abides in the womb. The urachos is the vessel that conveys the urine from the child in the womb to the alantois. I now proceed to

SECT. II.—Of the Formation of the Child in the Womb.

To speak of the formation of the child in the womb, we must begin where nature begins, and, that is at the act of coition, in which the womb having received the generative seed (without which there can be no conception), the womb immediately shuts up itself so close that the point of a needle cannot enter the inward orifice; and this it does, partly to hinder the issuing out of the seed again, and partly to cherish it by an inward heat, the better to provoke it to action; which is one reason why women's bellies are so lank at their first conception. The woman having thus conceived, the first thing which is operative in conception is the spirit whereof the seed is full, which, nature quickening by the heat of the womb, stirs up the action. The internal spirits, therefore, separate the parts that are less pure, which are thick, cold and clammy, from those that are more pure and noble. The less pure are cast to the outside, and with these seed is circled round and the membrane made, in which that seed that is most pure is wrapped round and kept close together, that it may be defended from cold and other accidents, and operate the better.

The first thing that is formed is the amnios; the next the chorion; and they enwrap the seed round like a curtain. Soon after this (for the seed thus shut up in the woman lies not idle), the navel vein is bred, which pierceth those skins, being yet very tender, and carries a drop of blood from the veins of the mother's womb to the seed; from which drop the vena cava, or chief vein, proceeds, from which all the rest of the veins which nourish the body spring; and now the seed hath something to nourish it, whilst it performs the rest of nature's work, and also blood administered to every part of it, to form flesh.

This vein being formed, the navel arteries are soon after formed; then the great artery, of which all the others are but branches; and then the heart, for the liver furnisheth the arteries with blood to form the heart, the arteries being made of seed, but the heart and the flesh, of blood. After this the brain is formed, and then the nerves to give sense and motion to the infant. Afterwards the bones and flesh are formed; and of the bones, first of all, the vertebrae or chine bones, and then the skull, etc. As to the time in which this curious part of nature's workmanship is formed, having already in Chapter II of the former part of this work spoken at large upon this point, and also of the nourishment of the child in the womb, I shall here only refer the reader thereto, and proceed to show the manner in which the child lies in the womb.

SECT. III.—Of the manner of the Child's lying in the Womb.

This is a thing so essential for a midwife to know, that she can be no midwife who is ignorant of it; and yet even about this authors extremely differ; for there are not two in ten that agree what is the form that the child lies in the womb, or in what fashion it lies there; and yet this may arise in a great measure from the different times of the women's pregnancy; for near the time of its deliverance out of those winding chambers of nature it oftentimes changes the form in which it lay before, for another.

I will now show the several situations of the child in the mother's womb, according to the different times of pregnancy, by which those that are contrary to nature, and are the chief cause of ill labours, will be more easily conceived by the understanding midwife. It ought, therefore, in the first place to be observed, that the infant, as well male as female, is generally situated in the midst of the womb; for though sometimes, to appearance a woman's belly seems higher on one side than the other, yet it is so with respect to the belly only, and not to her womb, in the midst of which it is always placed.

But, in the second place, a woman's great belly makes different figures, according to the different times of pregnancy; for when she is young with child, the embryo is always found of a round figure, a little long, a little oblong, having the spine moderately turned inwards, and the thighs folded, and a little raised, to which the legs are so raised, that the heels touch the buttocks; the arms are bending, and the hands placed upon the knees, towards which part of the body, the head is turned downwards towards the inward orifice of the womb, tumbling as it were over its head so that then the feet are uppermost, and the face towards the mother's great gut; and this turning of the infant in this manner, with its head downwards, towards the latter end of a woman's reckoning, is so ordered by nature, that it may be thereby the better disposed of its passage into the world at the time of its mother's labour, which is not then far off (and indeed some children turn not at all until the very time of birth); for in this posture all its joints are most easily extended in coming forth; for by this means its arms and legs cannot hinder its birth, because they cannot be bent against the inner orifice of the womb and the rest of the body, being very supple, passeth without any difficulty after the head, which is hard and big; being passed the head is inclined forward, so that the chin toucheth the breast, in which posture, it resembles one sitting to ease nature, and stooping down with the head to see what comes from him. The spine of the back is at that time placed towards the mother's, the head uppermost, the face downwards; and proportionately to its growth, it extends its members by little and little, which were exactly folded in the first month. In this posture it usually keeps until the seventh or eighth month, and then by a natural propensity and disposition of the upper first. It is true there are divers children, that lie in the womb in another posture, and come to birth with their feet downwards, especially if there be twins; for then, by their different motions they do so disturb one another, that they seldom come both in the same posture at the time of labour, but one will come with the head, and another with the feet, or perhaps lie across; but sometimes neither of them will come right. But, however the child may be situated in the womb, or in whatever posture it presents itself at the time of birth, if it be not with its head forwards, as I have before described, it is always against nature, and the delivery will occasion the more pain and danger, and require greater care and skill from the midwife, than when the labour is more natural.


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