The above words, to the medical mind, signify different things. The first means the casting off of the foetus before the life has quickened it. The second implies the same event subsequent to that period, or to the fifth month.
No child, however, born previous to the seventh month, has any chance of being reared; and to the majority brought into the world even thus far matured, existence is very problematical.
Abortion, however, will in this Essay serve, as it does in general language, to convey a notion of immature or premature delivery. Any one not in the profession can hardly conceive how frequently such circumstances occur in private families. The health of many ladies is positively ruined by these events; they become debilitated, feverish, hectic, dropsical; and, in short, they are the habitats of almost every disease to which the female frame is liable.
Not a few of these evils are induced by the unjustifiable interference of medical men. These gentlemen are frequently far too officious their remedies far too powerful; and their manipulations often unwarranted and uncalled for.
The lady subjected to them naturally aborts. The wonder would be, could she do otherwise; and, by the act, a disposition is promoted which renders very doubtful the full period of gestation being subsequently undergone. It is well known, and proved, that a habit of abortion is easily engendered. Nay, so readily do some women imbibe this propensity, that there are now many ladies alive who periodically relieve the uterus, and are even hardly conscious when that event occurs.
For the above reason, ladies are entreated to hold themselves sacred from all those meddlings, which, indeed, present weakness, and ultimately destroy the constitution.
It is the natural function of a healthy woman to bear children.
This ordination may entail upon her certain pangs; but the Being who made her, framed her equal to undergo these sufferings, and ordained that the agonies of maternity should not otherwise than benefit the constitution. In proof of this, how many smiling, happy, and blooming mothers do we not encounter; and who expects an old maid to be otherwise than debilitated and disappointed.
The premonitory symptoms of abortion are those of general derangement of the system. A certain lassitude or weakness steals over the entire frame. The lady feels desirous of retiring to bed before she is well aware of the cause, being thoroughly wearied previous to any conscious exertion; there occurs a pain in the back; the breasts become flaccid; and a general uneasiness rapidly increases.
After a little time pains occur, and a liquid drains from the body; this liquid may be perfectly colourless, or may be more or less soiled; but with its appearance the pains generally augment; the loins, abdomen, and thighs are involved; the agonies recur at certain periods, and each time with augmented strength. The stomach frequently rejects its contents; the pulse is accelerated; the skin is feverish; the patient cannot forbear from certain voluntary efforts, and the climax is soon attained.
The pain attending upon the above symptoms may, or may not, be fully equal to those attending actual labour.
There is no rule in cases of this kind; but during the first three months the lady usually suffers least; though I have attended cases in which the reverse has been exhibited.
The cause of abortion are varied and numerous. A few only of the most prominent will here be mentioned. They are, severe coughs, a blow or sudden compression of the uterine region, violent vomiting, sea-sickness, sudden fright, the extraction of the tooth, the repeated use of irritating medicines and drastic purgatives, repeated bleedings, strong mental emotions, or unusual bodily efforts. For these latter causes ladies should be careful how they exert themselves during the period of gestation. I do not mean that they should avoid everything like healthful exercise, but that they are not to encounter any of those domestic broils in which some females are too apt to engage.
I would likewise advise ladies to avoid excitement; and, for the above reasons, I would recommend those who may be about them at this time to shun every topic of irritation. While obeying this injunction, it does not follow that I am recommending a patient should be pampered in her fancies, or humoured in her whims. But I simply mean, that the feelings and passions of a lady in this critical situation, deserve, and should receive, a certain degree of respect.