Labor, or parturition, completes the grand function, of reproduction; and by it either spontaneously, or by nature, by art, or by both conjoined, the new being is ushered forth to assume an independent existence with all other isolated existences.
Labor is considered natural or spontaneous, when it is accomplished by the unaided powers of nature; and artificial or unnatural, when manual assistance is found necessary. Labor is also considered timely or at term, when it occurs at about the expiration of the ninth month of utero gestation; premature or untimely, when it occurs at any time between the first of the seventh month and full time. Provoked labor is one which has been produced by some mechanical cause, either accidental or designed. A retarded labor is one that is delayed beyond nine and a half or ten months of gestation.
PREMATURE LABOR. Premature labor may result from a great variety of causes, accidents of any kind, disease incidental to the pregnant condition, or other as, as described in the chapter on Abortion. For the precautions and remedies to be employed, in case of threatened premature labor see also the preceding chapter on Abortion. It may be stated here however that all women should use extra precautions at about the seventh month of gestation. In premature labors the first stage is usually longer in proportion than the second, which latter is generally longer than a labor at full term. Also vertex presentations are far less frequent, and cross, breech, or irregular presentations are much more frequent. Another proof that the foetus takes the most natural presentation and position from an inherent disposition on the part of the mother to secure this result. There is great danger from hemorrhage in premature labors; consequently more need of quite rest form the first symptoms, and ever after till all danger is past: and so much the more need of carefully selecting the proper remedy.
RETARDED LABORS. The ordinary time for gestation is two hundred and seventy five-days; but as there are exceptions to all other rules, we might naturally conclude they would be found here also. ( T smith’ Obstetrics, p. 212). Accordingly investigation has been made, and out of forty-three instances of conception after as single coitus, collected by Dr. Reid, all of them resting upon testimony as credible as can be abstained in such case, of which the average duration of gestation was two hundred and seventy five days, three were delivered at the 280th day; two on the 283d day; one each, on the 294th and 286th days; two on thee 287th; one on the 291st; two on the 393d, and one each, on the 296th and 300th days. According to the french law, every child born after the one hundred and eightieth or before the three hundredth day of marriage is considered legitimate.( Cazeaux, p. 378).
NATURAL LABOR AT TERM. In the study of this subject, two orders of facts must be separately considered, the one regarding the physiology of labor on the part of the mother; the other consisting of the movements which the child must execute in order to promote its passage from the uterus through the organs of generation. The former is to be regarded as purely functional; the other as simply mechanical. Let us first consider the subject functionally, with reference to the vital action of the mother.
CAUSES OF LABOR. These causes of labor have been divided in to the efficient and the determining causes. The efficient causes are unquestionably the vital energies of the mother, brought to bear in every possible manner upon the child for its expulsion, and at the same time to open up the way as much as possible for its exit. The uterus itself, acting involuntarily, is the chief agent in the expulsion, aided more or less by the voluntary efforts of the mother; while at the same time an involuntary dilatation is effected of the os uteri, vagina and external organs. All these processes on the part of the mother are purely functional and involuntary, as much so as are the processes of conception, gestation, digestion, nutrition, etc. The efficient cause of the labor is in only the last part of the grand function of reproduction. How important then that most sacred function should not be disturbed by any influences whatever; but should be sedulously watched ovary a careful and skilful Homoeopathic physician, ready to administer the proper remedy for whatever deviation from the normal condition may occur. How different when the blood is poisoned and the sense stupefied by anesthetics; how impossible then for the mother to give the alarm, o for nature to respond and furnish the symptomatic sings of danger till it is too late!