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Medicine and Anatomy

344. Displacement of the womb (Hippocrates, Places in Human Anatomy 47=V 344-6 Littré. G)

As for what are called women's diseases: the womb is responsible for all such diseases. For the womb, when it is displaced from its natural position, whether forward or back, causes diseases. When the neck of the womb has been moved back and does not bring its opening towards or touch the lips of the vagina, the problem is minor. But if the womb falls forward and brings its opening towards the lips, it first of all causes pain when it makes contact, and then because the womb is cut off and obstructed by the contact of its neck with the lips of the vagina, there is no so-called menstrual flow. This flow if retained causes swelling and pain. If the womb descends and is diverted so that it approaches the groin, it causes pain. If it ascends and diverted and cut off, it causes illness through its compression. When a woman is ill because of this problem, she has pains in her thighs and her head. When the womb is distended and swollen, there is no flow, and it becomes filled up. When it is filled, it touches the thighs. When the womb is filled with moisture and distended, there is no flow, and it causes pain in both the thighs and the groin, something like balls roll through the stomach, and cause pain in the head, first in one part, and then in all of it, as the disease develops.

The treatment is as follows: if the womb has only moved forward and it is possible to apply ointment, use any foul-smelling ointment you choose, either cedar or myssoton, or some other heavy and ill-scented substance, and fumigate, but do not use a vapour-bath, and do not give food or a diuretic liquid during this time, or wash her in hot water. If the womb has turned upwards and is not obstructed, use sweet-smelling pessaries that are also inflammatory. These are myrrh, or perfume, or some other aromatic and inflammatory substance. Use these in pessaries, and from below apply fumigations with wine vapour, and wash with hot water, and use diuretics. It is clear that the womb is turned upwards and is not obstructed, because there is a flow.

If the womb is obstructed, then there is no so-called menstrual flow. This disease must be treated first with a vapour-bath; put wild figs into the wine, and heat it and put a gourd around the mouth of the vessel in which the wine is heated. Then do as follows: cut the gourd through the middle and hollow it out, and cut off a bit of its top, as if you were making a nozzle for a bellows, so that the vapour can go through its channel and reach the womb. Wash with hot water, and use pessaries made of inflammatory drugs. The following inflammatory drugs bring on menstruation: cow dung, beef bile, myrrh, alum, galbanum, and anything similar; use as much of these as possible. Evacuate from below by laxative drugs that do not cause vomiting, diluted, so that it does not become a purgative by being too strong. Use pessaries as follows, if you want them to be strong. Use half-cooked honey, and add some of the substances prescribed to bring on menstruation; after you have added them, make the pessaries like pellets used for the anus, but make them long and thin. Make the woman lie down, and elevate the feet of the bed towards her feet, insert the pessary, and apply heat either on a chamber-pot or on some other vessel, so that the pessary melts. If you want to make the pessary less strong, wrap it in linen. And if the womb is filled with fluid, with its mouth swollen, so that amenorrhoea results, heal it by bringing on menstruation with medicinal pessaries, using both inflammatory pessaries as described, as in the case of the preceding amenorrhoea. If there is an excessive flow, do not use hot water or any other kind, nor diuretics or laxative foods. Raise the foot of the bed higher, so that the inclination of the bed does not encourage the flow, and use astringent pessaries. The flow, if her period comes directly, is bloody, if it diminishes, it contains pus. Young women bleed more, and the so-called menstrual periods of older women contain more mucous.