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     To hasten the progress of prolonged and difficult labor, the midwives of the earliest times often felt the desire of being able to hold the head of the child between their hands.  However, the human hands are too thick and large.  Thinner and slimmer, the obstetrical forceps were used, which are in reality nothing else than a pair of iron hands.

The Secret of the Obstetrical Forceps 

      In 1813 by a fortunate accident, several obstetrical instuments were uncovered at the estate of Woodham Mortimer Hall, near Malden, in Essex, which was owned by Dr Chamberlen (third generation), until 1715.  From the fashion of these instruments may be traced the development of the Chamberlen's forceps. The obstetrical forceps was devised on the late 1500 A.D. to the beginning of the 1600 by a member of the Chamberlen family. The forceps was kept a family secret for four generations.  Little was known of the forceps up to the second quarter of the 18th Century.
      No method other than the podalic version (insertion of the operators hand inside the uterus and grab one or both feet of the baby and pull the  infant out), was available mechanically to assist the delivery of a living child.  So many babies were lost or maimed and countless mothers perished from exhaustion, hemorrhage and  infection before the advent of the obstetrical forceps.  The forceps continue to save babies and mothers up to the present time.  It must be one of the most important inventions in medicine.

The Progress of the Chamberlen Forceps
A simple lever
Double blade connected together with a riveted joint, and scissor like handles.
Double blades with hooked handles in which the joint is formed by a loose pivot on one blade, and a hole in the other to receive it.
The most advanced of the Chamberlen's forceps.  Both blades had a hole at the joint through which is passed a string to connect the blades.  The string is tied around the joint to make it fixed.

The Chamberlen forceps was a straight, short and have the the cephalic curve only.  It is approximately 28 cm (11 inches) long.  Levret of France in 1747 and Smellie of England in 1751 independently of one another added the pelvic curve to the obstetrical forceps.
The pelvic curve of the forceps
Designed to accomodate the maternal pelvic curve.
The cephalic curve of the forceps.
Formed to embrace the fetal head.

Chamber replica forceps
Chamberlen Forceps Replica

A cased facsimile of the most advanced of the Chamberlen forceps.  A perfectly cast from the third pair of the original Chamberlen  forceps held at the Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynecologists and is one of a limited edition of 250.

Obstetrical Forceps Locks
      There are several system where the obstetrical forceps lock the two blades. Illustrated below are the major locks to permit ready articulation and hold the blades together.
English Lock
Introduced in 1752
Consists of a socket upon each branch  into which fits the shank of the other half of instrument. The notches in each stem fit together to lock the instrument.

French Lock
Introduced 1747
A revolving thumb lock that is inserted into a slot, then turned to secure the blades into position.

Siebold's Lock
Introduced 1804
   A modification of the French lock.  A pivot is screwed into the shank of the left branch, while the right presents an opening which can be adjusted to it, the screw being tightened after articulation.

German Lock
The shank of the left branch bearing a pivot with a broad, flat head, while the right is provided with a notch which corresponds to the pivot.

The precursor of the obstetrical forceps:  Roonhuysen Lever

Roonhuysen Lever
     c 1750-1790
     Roonhuysen introduced the first lever in obstetrics in the late 17th Century.  It is also called the vectis or the extractor.  The lever consisted of a flat piece of iron, bent into a slight curve at both ends, and wrapped it with a soft leather so as to be gentle with the fetal and maternal skin.  The instrument was used to displace a face presentation or dislodge an impacted fetal head from the pelvis. Unplated steel,  25 x 2.5 cm (9 3/4")

The Vectis

A single blade to extract a living child.  It is used as a lever or a tractor or an artificial right hand. It is also called the lever or extractor  Three of four fingers of the left hand act as antagonist.  The use of the vectis is illustrated.

Lowder's Vectis
Circa 1860s
The vectis is hinged.  Unplated steel with ebony handle.  30 cm (11 3/4") in dimensions.

Different Kinds of Vectis
vect3 vectis3
Folding vectis with different joints Non hinged vectis

no pelvic curve1a
no pelviccurve 1b
                                                Short and Long Straight Forceps
Like the Chamberlen forceps, both pairs of forceps have the cephalic curve only, but no pelvic curve.  The short forceps have smooth ebony handles, English lock  unplated steel blades.  The long forceps is the Denman's forceps.  It has ribbed ebony handles with notched end, unplated steel blades with English lock.

                                                                      The Levret's Forceps Type III

Levret's Forceps
c 1750s
        In 1747,  Andre Levret of France applied the first pelvic curve on the obstetrical forceps.  He also introduced the French lock to hold the blades together. The fetal side of the blades are grooved. Unplated steel  with hooked handles.

                                                             Type II Levret's Forceps

Smellie's Forceps
c 1800s
     Introduced by English Surgeon William Smellie in 1752.  It contained the most advanced obstetrical lock, the English lock.  Smellie together with Andre Levret added the pelvic curve to the blades of the forceps. Unplated steel with ebony handle. The notches  on the handle are to be bound together by a tape to hold the blades together.  See Bennion, pg 119,  No 7, Ch 6. 

hf t
Hamon's Forceps with Mechanical Tractors (Late Model)
Circa 1877

L. Hamond constructed a more complicated mechanical tractor than his earlier model used with his retroceps.  The two crutches (missing) pressed in the genitocrural fold and a long screw with a cranked handle.
See pg 155 Fig. 11.14 The Obstetricians Armamentarium, Brian Hibbard, Norman Publishing, 2000.


Hamilton Forceps
Circa 1792
     It is a short forceps with a pelvic curve and an English lock.  The right hand blade has a hinge between the handle and blade, by which it is easily introduced  while the patient lies on her left side.  It has a distinctive upward curve to both fenestrated blades. The value of the hinge was unknown.  It may just be the craze of the time.  Unplated steel with ebony handles.

Orme-Lowder's Forceps
Circa: 1782
Short, straight forceps without the pelvic curve.  It has broad blades, wide parting shanks. Designed by David Orme, M.D. of Edinburgh, and William Lowder, M.D. of Southhampton. 28 cm (10 3/4") Das p220 Fig 244.

davis 1

davis 2
Spoon and Fenestrated Blade Forceps.
With the male spoon, and female fenestrated interlocking blades. Unplated steel with ebony handles.

Dubois' Forceps
Introduced in 1791
Long and  heavy forceps with detachable wooden handles.  Designed by father and son: Antoine and Paul  Dubois. They modified the Levret's forceps.  48 1/2 cm ( 19 ")  Hibbard p64. Fig. 5.8

Antoine Dubois's Forceps
Introduced in 1850
All metal long forceps. On one handle, a sharp point with olive screw cap.  48 1/2 cm
(19")  Hibbard pg 64  Fig 5.7

Pajot's (Jointed) Forceps
Circa: 1866
Jointed on the shanks, detachable curved ends of handles to expose sharp points.  All unplated steel measuring 48 cm ( 14 1/2"). Das p421 Fig 511-2

Hopkin's ob forcepsHopkin's ob forceps handle

Ivory Handled Hopkin's OB  forceps
Circa 1833
Inscribed on handles Dr  Hopkins impd forceps on one handle, Millikin 301 Strand London on the other. On one of the shanks, marked: Univ. College, Liverpool

Naegele's ob forcepsNaegele's ob forceps handle Ivory Handled Naegele's OB forceps
Circa Mid 1800
Checkered ivory handles with upturned knobs at the end. Unplated steel blades marked: J. GRAY & Sons, Sheffield.

Levret's Modified Forceps
Circa: 1850s
Unplated steel, hooked handles and French lock.  Fetal side of blades not grooved. 48 1/2 cm (19") in length.

J.D. Busch's Forceps
Introduced in 1798
In 1793 Johann Busch introduced the finger rest.  Ebony handle with finger rest for traction.  36 cm ( 14 ") Hibbard, p73, fig 5.23

Hodge's Forceps
Circa 1833
Designed byDr. Hugh L. Hodge of Pennsylvania.  It has an ovoid blades, parallel shanks, increased pelvic curve, and a Siebold's lock. Unplated steel. 1987  Wilbur, M.Ds,, Antique Med. Instr. p103

 Simpson Short Forceps
Circa 1848
Only 4 cm (2 1/2 ") long handles, lined with a very thick and convex layer of checkered ebony; no palm rest and no finger rest, and no pelvic curve.  Unplated steel, 24 cm   (9 3/4") in length.
Fig 437. Das 1929


                                                                            Hamon's Forceps
Circa 1864
Often called "retroceps' forceps, meaning behind the head.  The blades were placed behind the head and it articulates on a common transverse handle.  The right shank revolves.  It serves more like a lever and never had a practical usage.

Vacher's forceps 1a
Vachers forceps 1b
Vacher's Forceps
Introduced in 1873. A short folding forceps with smooth ebony handles. Fig 534,535 p447 Das 1929

 Elliot Forceps
Circa 1858
To  avoid compression to the fetal head, the Elliot forceps provides a sliding pivot on the handles to keep it at a desired distance apart.  Ebony handle, uplated steel.

Hale's Forceps
Circa: 1880
Short forceps with German lock.  Ebony handle, unplated steel.  27 cm ( 10 1/2")

Sawyer's Short Forceps
Circa: 1876
Unplated steel, ebony handle, and metal hooked ends.  Marked Shepard and Dudley.  25 cm (9 3/4") Tiemann p537 Fig 3741

Lusk's Tarnier's Axis Traction Forceps
Circa 1880s
Traction on the handle guides the operator the precise direction of the pelvic axis.  Unplated steel blades, horn covered handles, double connecting rods attached to the side of the blades. The traction device has an ebony handle.  Bar marked Collin, Brevete SDGD. Fig 3779, Tiemann.

Smith's Forceps
Circa 1875
Unplated steel with finely ribbed removable handles.  It has  hooked ends and Siebold's lock.  Marked Mathieu A. Paris. Length: 47 cm.  1987 Keith Wilbur,  Antique Medical Instr. p104.

Bedford's Forceps
Circa: 1878
Wooden handle with ring finger rest and German lock.  Unplated steel.  Marked Shepard and Dudley. 30 cm. (15 1/4") Tiemann p540 Fig 3762

Noncrossed or Parallel Forceps
Circa: Mid 1800s
 Consists of two parallel forceps held together by pin and socket cross bar.  The idea is to apply traction to the fetal head without compression..All metal unplated steel.  42 x 18 cm .

                                                                           Steifenhofer Parallel Forceps
Plated steel parallel forceps similar to Boerma.  The rib handles are interconnected with a round joint at the base; they have small protrusions on the ends for grip; hallmarked with a crowned caduceus.  10 5/8" long,  1907 forceps described in Das p683.

Barton's forceps
Barton's Forceps

    A rotational forceps introduced in 1925 by Lyman Barton of New York . The blades join the shanks at an angle. One of the blades is hinged. This ob forceps has a sliding lock with a cross bar handle axis-traction attachment. The handle have a finger rest.

Kielland Forceps

A rotational forceps with a sliding lock.  Stainless steel

Mololgauker's forceps
Moolgauker's forceps 1
                                                                   Moolgauker's Forceps
Another rotational ob forceps, supposedly an upgrade to the Kielland's forceps.   It has a sliding  shanks with a lock.  The handles have a finger rest and a spacer that can be adjusted with a winged knot. The blades have 4 round fenestrations on each side.

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