Sterility or Barrenness.
IT has doubtless occurred to every person who has thought upon the subject, that there must be some special reasons why so many women do not and cannot bear children. These reasons I propose now to explain as simply and as plainly as the nature of the subject admits. To this explanation I shall add some remarks upon treatment; for, in nine cases out of ten, barrenness is completely curable.
Reproduction. Throughout nature, life is perpetuated by reproduction. The vegetable and the animal die; but before death comes, they reproduce the germ of a new thing, or being, which lives after them. The law of reproduction, throughout the realm of nature, is one, and but one. All living things have male and female structures. Every new being is evolved from an egg, the product of an antecedent parent.
Reproduction consists in the growth of an egg, or germ, in connection with some living part, until it is capable of independent existence. This germ or egg is the product of the female parent, and will abort or perish unless brought into connection with a fructifying element from the male. Thus, two palin trees, growing about forty miles from each other, the one with stamens (the male organs), the other with pistils (the female organs), bore no seed for many years; but when they bad risen in height above all intervening and obstructing objects, the winds bore the pollen from the stamens of one to the pistillate flowers of the other, which immediately began to produce fruit. A knowledge of this great law, as applicable to all living things, enables horticulturists to raise such varieties of fruit as they wish, by shaking the blooming male branch, which has stamens, over the female flowers, supplied with pistils. Sometimes the male and female flowers are upon the same plant, at other times, upon different ones. The strawberry is of the latter kind, the pollen being found only on the plants which have the largest flowers, the pistillate flowers being only on the smaller plants. The pollen, or dust, is carried from the male to the female plant, on the feet of honey~ bees, as they fly from flower to flower. It has been discovered that the reason why many beds are unfruitful (strawberry beds, I mean), is that the large male plants are allowed to monopolize the beds to the exclusion of the smaller female plants. The plants with large flowers should be thinned out, leaving only a few to furnish pollen for the females, which are the real bearers.
A New Branch of Industry. It is only comparatively recently that this law has been understood in its wide applicability. How wise and merciful an arrangement of Providence that an unseen hand should turn for man the mystic leaves of knowledge at the very time when he is most in need of the instruction imparted! At this very moment, the more complete knowledge of this great law is opening a new branch of industry, and a new supply of food, and is thus helping the solution of the great problem of how the increasing inhabitants of civilized countries are to be worked and fed. I refer to the propagation and culture of fish.
A committee appointed by the legislature of Massachusetts, reported very ably upon this subject. The eggs of the fish may be fecundated almost as easily as the pistillate flowers of the plant. It is only necessary, when the eggs of the female are mature, to hold her over a basin of water, and make gentle pressure upon the belly, when the eggs will pass freely into the water; then to pass the milt of the male into the same water, and shake them thoroughly together. By this means, the eggs are impregnated, and fish may be raised to any extent.
The egg of the higher animals is more difficult to fecundate, and that of the human female most difficult of all; for in nature, as in art, the more perfect structures are begun and reared with less ease.
Propriety of Imparting this Knowledge. Men are naturally curious, and love to understand the mystery of their own origin; and yet there is scarcely any subject upon which they have so little reliable information. It has been held that this is a kind of information which it is not proper to impart to the multitude; that the curiosity which seeks this knowledge is based upon improper feelings; and that to gratify it by imparting what is sought, would lead to immorality.
I do not believe it. Such ideas are based upon a shallow philosophy. They overlook the fact that nothing excites the imagination like that which is covered with mystery. It is because the immensely important subject of the procreation of the race is so carefully hidden from the public eye; because it is purposely blurred so deep in obscurity, that any allusion to it excites improper thoughts. If the subject be properly viewed, it is no more indelicate to explain the mode of reproducing a human being than to explain that of propagating a plant or a fish. Both are effected in the same way, under precisely the same natural law.
True, the propagation of the human being involves moral laws likewise; but these relate only to the social relations in which it may take place, and do not affect in any way the propriety of making it understood by the people.
The Germ Furnished only at Certain Periods. These general remarks bring me to the immediate subject in hand. Throughout animated nature, the female furnishes the mature germ or egg only at certain periods. The healthy human female, as I have already explained, matures a germ once in four weeks. These germs or eggs are constantly advancing, in succession, from the rudest beginning to a state of ripeness or maturity. Every person must have seen the eggs taken from a hen when killed in the laying season. Fig. 143 furnishes a good illustration. They are in all stages of progress, from the invisible germ up to the nearly mature egg.
Such is the progress of the human egg, only that it does not attain to any such size. So far as the maturing is concerned, it occurs in the same gradual way.
Conception or impregnation can take place only when a germ or egg is ripe; and as an egg ripens, bursts, and passes into the Fallopian tubes and thence to the womb only at the time of menstruation, it is plain that conception must happen somewhere in the neighborhood of this period. Intercourse with the male may take place at intermediate times; but, except in some rare instances, conception will not occur, because there is no mature egg to be impregnated.
Now, as every healthy woman brings to maturity a germ or egg at the time of every monthly flow, and as every ripened egg is capable, under favorable circumstances, of being fecundated, it follows that every woman who menstruates, and is well, can, under certain circumstances, be impregnated. To effect it, it is only necessary that the vivifying portion of the male semen, called spermatozoa, come into union with the ripened egg.
This union (for, that men and women may have a chance to know as much about themselves as they do about fishes and plants, I propose to make the whole subject plain) takes place in the following way. In the act of copulation, the male organ penetrates the vagina, and deposits the sperm, spermatic fluid, semen, or, as the scriptures call it, the , seed," directly at the mouth of the uterine neck. Some suppose that when the sensation of the female is at its height, the womb opens to receive the injected semen. But this is uncertain.
This spermatic fluid is composed, in large part, of mucus. A smaller portion of it is secreted by the testicles, and is the true semen, or life giving principle. This last portion is composed, almost entirely, of fertilizing filaments or vesicles, which look like small animals (Fig. 144), and for a long time were supposed to be animalcules. They are generally called spermatozoa. By some mysterious law of their nature, they are endowed with the power of motion; and when deposited near the mouth of the womb, they immediately begin to move, as if by instinct, in search of a ripened egg. Passing through the uterine neck, they enter the womb. If an egg be found, in its ripened condition, they immediately embrace it, and, in some mysterious way, mingling their own contents with the contents of the egg, they impregnate or fertilize it. Fig. 145 shows the womb divided lengthwise. A, is the internal mouth (os internum), or point where the canal through the uterine neck enters the body of the womb; B, is the external mouth (os externum); the space between A and B, the passage through the neck; and C, C, the points where the Fallopian tubes begin. By looking back now, and examining Fig. 136, the whole thing will be understood.
This is a very brief and simple account of impregnation. It is supposed to be capable of taking place either a little before or a little after the monthly
flow, and not at intermediate times, for the reason already stated
There are some reasons for believing that the same egg or germ, if fertilized just before the courses, will grow to be a male, while if fecundated after the turns, it will be a female. One reason for this supposition is, that plants may be made to bear male or female flowers by simply subjecting them to different degrees of heat. If there be more heat than light, male flowers are produced; if more light than heat, female flowers are the result. The heat of the female generative organs is raised to its highest degree about the time the egg bursts its covering, which is just before the beginning of the flow.
It has been thought that the right ovary produces males, and the left ovary females; but this theory is not supported by any facts, and is probably not true.
Causes of Sterility. From what has been said, it would appear that to ensure child bearing it is only necessary that semen or seed, containing spermatozoa, come in contact with a germ vesicle or egg, at the right time; that there be no hindering disease; and that the parties cohabiting be adapted to each other.
It is evident enough that a want of adaptation between the parties, physical or moral, or both, is often an absolute bar to conception. A lack of moral adaptation was probably the obstacle in the case of Napoleon and Josephine, her marriage with a previous husband, and his with a subsequent wife having both been fruitful.
It is certain that indifference on the part of the wife towards the husband, and especially repugnance, may prove an obstacle. A mere lack of sexual feeling does not necessarily prove a bar, though it probably lessens the chances of a fruitful union.
Conception may fail to take place from the diminutiveness of the male organ, the semen not being deposited in the right place; or, from its excessive largeness, penetration of the vagina being impossible. In some rare cases, the womb is absent. The inflammation of the ovaries often prevents the ripening of eggs. The Fallopian tubes occasionally get diseased and plugged up, so that no egg can pass to the womb. Inflammation in the cavity of the uterine neck is probably the most frequent of all the causes of sterility. The viscid, gluey matter which is secreted in inflammatory conditions of this part, plugs up the passage, so that no spermatozoa can pass up in search of the egg. The acrid discharges in most of the cases of whites destroy the fertilizing spermatozoa, and render conception impossible. All the displacements of the womb may act as bars to impregnation. If it fall over backward or forward, the mouth is tilted up before, or down behind, and is not in the right position to receive the semen. One of the most general causes is trying to avoid pregnancy in early years of married life.
Treatment. Judicious treatment will, in most cases, remove sterility, and open that 41 well spring of pleasure," which the poet has so felicitously described as Ňa baby in the house."
The obstacles to conception, stated above, are chiefly those diseases which have been previously described. To cure those diseases is to remove the obstacles. When it is dependent on the causes which produce painful menstruation, or profuse menstruation, or a suppression of menstruation, the remedies are the same as are pointed out for those complaints. If inflammation of the ovaries be the cause, a cure may be effected, provided the inflamed condition be removed before the bundle of eggs be destroyed. If inflammation or ulceration of the neck of the womb be the obstacle, the remedy may be found in the treatment recommended for those affections.
Sterility depending on the causes just mentioned, I have had the pleasure of curing many times. When dependent on a lack of physical or moral adaptation between the parties, it does not, of course, admit of relief. It is a misfortune to be borne in silence. It has happened, perhaps, through a lack of Judgment or care in selecting a partner, and is one of the mistakes of a lifetime which a lifetime cannot repair. When this want of adaptation is not complete, a remedy may frequently be found.
Unfortunately, many females do not regard sterility as an evil to be deplored, but rather as a blessing to be desired. Life, to them, has no high aims o2 duties, it is a round of fashion and pleasure. To bear and rear children interrupts their frivolities, and they seek to escape such abridgement of their pleasures. This is wrong. Life is a great theatre, in which all should strive to act some worthy part, and feel that, upon retiring, it would be wrong to leave their garments upon the vacant stage, with none to put them on, and continue the drama.
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