Philosophical Transactions. For the months of April, May and June, 1716. - Part IV.

By Nicole Renee

Ⅳ. An account of what appear'd on opening the big belly'd woman near Haman in Shropshire, who was suppos'd to have continued many years with child. Communicated by Dr. Hollings M.D. from Shrewsbury.

A marry'd woman, near Haman about three miles from Shrewsbury, about the 40th year of her age, had then first the common reasons to believe she was with child; at the time of her account she had the usual signs of labour, and a good midwife, tho' mistaken, assur'd her it was so, but that the child was so big she could not be delivered without bringing it away in pieces. She not submitting to that, her pains went soon off, and she continued without any other disorders nine months longer, when she had again the signs of labour; and the same midwife assur'd her as before, and she persisting in her former resolution, her pains, after a day or two went off. Soon after her belly swell'd to a surprizing size, by which she got subsistance for her family by being seen as a shew. I saw her first above twenty years since, when her belly was almost even with her chin, the weight of it so great, that she was oblig'd to support it with a stool. She could not stand without the help of a rope from the cieling, which assisted her in changing her posture of fitting. She slept commonly with her arms folded on her belly, and her head rested between them. Sh had no swelling in her legs; every other part emaciated as usual in the like cases. Thus this poor creature liv'd without any other considerable complaint above thirty years, the most remarkable circumstance, I think, in her case. She died in May 1715, when this appear'd to be an ascites.
I need not mention the state the common teguments must necessarily be in from so great a distention, which had distorted may of her ribs, and forc'd the diaphragm so high, that it was suprizing to find her breathing could be so long continu'd. The water was all contain'd in the duplicature of the peritonaum, 13 gallons besides a quart that was split; it was saltish, with some little fat upon it, and towards the latter running ting'd with blood as usual. There was not any water in the cavity of the abdomen, except what was contain'd in a kind of bladder of the shape I have sent, Fig 31. which lay a-cross the pundus uteri. This was divided by a cartilaginous substance into two cavities; in one there was a pint and a half, in the other three parts of a pint of water. I believe it was this (I know not how) impos'd on the midwife. The uterus was of the natural size without any alteration, except that the os tinca and collum minus were fill'd with a gritty substance, hard as stone, which I take to be the humour separated there, and coagulated by time. Mr. Cooper Tab. 15. Fig. 4. says he found the same parts fill'd with a glutinous matter, which he think is useful to prevent the abortion; which if vitiated, impregnation is hinder'd.
The liver and other parts contain'd in the abdomen, were forc'd into an incredible small compass (and by that pressure a little chang'd in shape) to perform their office so long; to which the muscles of the abdomen, distended so as to be scarce discernible, could give but little, if any assistance.
The awe that people have here for dead bodies, tho' never so prejudicial to the living, would not suffer her friends to let me make any farther enquiry; so that I can send no account of any other part. The same error hindered me examining another woman, who died here about a week after, of an ascites which she had forty years, any farther than to be satisfied she had seven gallons of water contain'd between the duplicatures of the peritonaum, and none in the cavity of the abdomen.


A pdf version of the entire text of the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London can be found here (this article begins on page 452).

Leave a Reply