History of Animals
In those animals that have cotyledons in the womb the cotyledons
grow less as the embryo grows bigger, and at length they disappear
altogether. The navel-string is a sheath wrapped about blood-vessels
which have their origin in the womb, from the cotyledons in those
animals which possess them and from a blood-vessel in those which do
not. In the larger animals, such as the embryos of oxen, the vessels
are four in number, and in smaller animals two; in the very little
ones, such as fowls, one vessel only.
Of the four vessels that run into the embryo, two pass through
the liver where the so-called gates or 'portae' are, running in the
direction of the great vein, and the other two run in the direction of
the aorta towards the point where it divides and becomes two vessels
instead of one. Around each pair of blood-vessels are membranes, and
surrounding these membranes is the navel-string itself, after the
manner of a sheath. And as the embryo grows, the veins themselves tend
more and more to dwindle in size. And also as the embryo matures it
comes down into the hollow of the womb and is observed to move here,
and sometimes rolls over in the vicinity of the groin.
When women are in labour, their pains determine towards many
divers parts of the body, and in most cases to one or other of the
thighs. Those are the quickest to be delivered who experience severe
pains in the region of the belly; and parturition is difficult in
those who begin by suffering pain in the loins, and speedy when the
pain is abdominal. If the child about to be born be a male, the
preliminary flood is watery and pale in colour, but if a girl it is
tinged with blood, though still watery. In some cases of labour
these latter phenomena do not occur, either one way or the other.
In other animals parturition is unaccompanied by pain, and the
dam is plainly seen to suffer but moderate inconvenience. In women,
however, the pains are more severe, and this is especially the case in
persons of sedentary habits, and in those who are weak-chested and
short of breath. Labour is apt to be especially difficult if during
the process the woman while exerting force with her breath fails to
hold it in.
First of all, when the embryo starts to move and the membranes
burst, there issues forth the watery flood; then afterwards comes
the embryo, while the womb everts and the afterbirth comes out from
The cutting of the navel-string, which is the nurse's duty, is a
matter calling for no little care and skill. For not only in cases
of difficult labour must she be able to render assistance with skilful
hand, but she must also have her wits about her in all
contingencies, and especially in the operation of tying the cord.
For if the afterbirth have come away, the navel is ligatured off
from the afterbirth with a woollen thread and is then cut above the
ligature; and at the place where it has been tied it heals up, and the
remaining portion drops off. (If the ligature come loose the child
dies from loss of blood.) But if the afterbirth has not yet come away,
but remains after the child itself is extruded, it is cut away
within after the ligaturing of the cord.
It often happens that the child appears to have been born dead
when it is merely weak, and when before the umbilical cord has been
ligatured, the blood has run out into the cord and its surroundings.
But experienced midwives have been known to squeeze back the blood
into the child's body from the cord, and immediately the child that
a moment before was bloodless came back to life again.
It is the natural rule, as we have mentioned above, for all
animals to come into the world head foremost, and children,
moreover, have their hands stretched out by their sides. And the child
gives a cry and puts its hands up to its mouth as soon as it issues