Delivery in the Lab

A page from William Hunter’s ‘The anatomy of the human gravid uterus exhibited in figures’, published in 1774.

Our last day of autopsies today and I finally took a deep breath and asked my question: “Do you ever get pregnant mothers? Do you look at the babies?”


Sometimes the pregnancy is an incidental finding, tiny 12-week old fetuses.

Sometimes they pregnancy is almost term.

They won’t usually dissect the fetus, but they look at it: take measurements and inspect the placenta.

Coincidentally, there was such a mother today. She died at home of massive haemoptysis (most likely TB-related) and the healthy baby died along with her.

They brought the uterus to us, unopened. Another amazing bit of anatomy, seeing it lying in relation to the other organs.

An incision was made as if a normal caesarian section. There was something heart-breaking (call it my own broodiness), when baby’s head popped out, covered in vernix.

The forensic pathologist announced, “It’s a girl” and my heart ached for the father (if he is around) and the deceased mother, and even for the baby girl who was never held.

5 thoughts on “Delivery in the Lab

  1. oh, wow.

    i went to see the touring “bodyworlds” exhibit a few years ago when it was in boston, and as an addendum to the exhibit they had a series of preserved fetuses (week-by-week) culminating with a bodyworlds body of a woman who died of lung cancer while about five months pregnant. it was fascinating…and heartbreaking…

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