Obstetrical vectis with detachable blade, United Kingdom, 1801-1900

1801-1900 in United Kingdom

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Vectis, steel and ivory, detachable blade, British, 19th century

A vectis is a lever-type instrument of Dutch origin. It was used by obstetric physicians, so-called men-midwives, at the birth of a child. Such men were not normally present in routine births during the 1800s. However, they might be called to assist if complications arose. A vectis altered the position of the baby’s head. It also acted as a lever to ease the head out.

This 19th century example is spoon-shaped. It is made of steel with a detachable ivory handle. This suggests it was part of a set in which the same handle was interchangeable on a range of instruments. Some were originally made of bone or ivory. They were often covered in leather. This was very unhygienic. It led to many women dying of puerperal fever. This is a fatal form of blood poisoning contracted during the birth from unsanitary instruments.


Obstetrics, Gynaecology & Contraception
Object Number:
ivory, steel
obstetrical vectis
Loan: Wellcome Trust

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