Women and Their Crazy Diseases, Part Eight

Chapter Eight – Of the Signs Which Usually Accompany Pregnancy. This is important information to know, not just because of the obvious, but also to tell if a woman is lying when she commits crimes and tries to escape prison or death by claims of being with child. Firstly, the menses are no longer present, but this is not always true, and cannot be relied upon as the sole condition, for other issues can cause the menstrual cycle to cease. Doctors were divided on whether or not a woman could be pregnant and still menstruate; some believed that this meant the woman would be sure to miscarry, as the menstrual blood must contain part of the ovum. Dewees did not believe this, however.

Nausea and vomiting are other signs, but not always apparent of pregnancy. The breasts become enlarged, as well as darkening around the nipples, but only in cases of the first pregnancy, as Dewees believe that the darkening could be due to nursing the child, or some other reason. The woman must expose her whole breast to the doctor, not just lift it up and out, as that sometimes irritates the skin and shows a sign that isn’t there. There might be milk production during pregnancy, although it sometimes does not begin until after. However, Dewees cautions against using this as the yardstick by which to measure pregnancy alone, for some women secrete milk that aren’t pregnant. He also heard of a man who could breastfeed. He also proved the innocence of a woman who wasn’t pregnant, but was accused of being so, solely because she was lactating.

During pregnancy the abdomen becomes enlarged, but again, that can also be due to other factors, such as an issue of the uterus. He cites an example from his own practice, wherein a mother contacted him for a second opinion about her young daughter. Her swollen abdomen was diagnosed as pregnancy by another doctor, who advised the mother to send her daughter to the country to hide her away. Not believing this to be the case, she sent for Dewees, who discovered that she was still a virgin, so it could not be true, it was probably just a case of “deranged menstruation.”

In addition to the abdomen, the uterus also becomes enlarged and also the navel juts out, but can also be due to other causes, as described above. Finally, the woman spits frothy mucus, and salivates a lot, which I thought was crazy, but apparently, is true.

Therefore, the only sure way to tell about pregnancy is to examine the woman and feel for the movement of the fetus. However, some women can move their abdominal muscles in such a way that they can mimic fetal movements. He then goes into a lengthy explanation of “quickening,” which is the period when the woman can actually sense the fetal movements inside her. This varies from woman to woman, and even pregnancy to pregnancy. He debunks a medical journalist named “Medicus” for quite a few pages, and it gets pretty jargony, so we shan’t go into it.

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