STERILITY AND IMPOTENCE.
The term "sterility" indicates permanent or tempo rary lack of the power of fruitage. In the human family it means a loss or suspension of creative power, and may- be applied to men or women, al though it is usually regarded as synonymous with barrenness in women. I make use of the term now with this significance, choosing the word impotence in speaking of defective virile power among men.
It is not my intention to write fully or scientifi cally upon this topic, but to give only such general information upon the subject as every man and wo man who may found a home should seek to possess.
In every perfectly constituted man or woman, the instinctive love of children is ever awakened and quickened by those healthful activities of the procrea tive instincts which lead to marriage. This is so universally true that we must regard those who have little or no desire for children as wanting in perfec tion and fulness of organization. For this natural reason, as well as for many minor and purely selfish ones, the withholding of the gift of parentage is gen erally and justly felt as one of the greatest priva tions.
In this limited notice I shall refer only to the more common causes of sterility among women, many of which may be avoided by early and proper care.
Diseases of the ovaries preventing the perfect formation of the eggs, or inflammatory affections causing the closure of the fallopian tubes, produce obstinate and incurable sterility; also changes in the structure of the uterus, as thickening or hardening of its muscular tissues. Fibrous development of the uterine walls, or tumors in the cavity of that organ, indeed, all the diseased conditions enumerated,— may have their origin from want of proper protection in childhood; and for this reason, those who have the care of young girls should be well aware of the dan gers that are avoidable, as the after-results are not easily removed.
Inflammatory attacks about the abdomen, occurring in girls from five to fifteen years of age, caused by imperfect protection of the extremities, sitting in school in damp clothing with wet or chilled feet, or the persistent habit of constipation, lead directly to the results described. Where several such attacks
have occurred in early and later girlhood, I have rarely failed to find more or less structural change in the tissues of the pelvic organs, such as deposits produced by congestion, shrinking of the ligaments, drawing the uterus into unnatural positions, irrita tion of the ovaries, and obstinate dysmenorrhoea, sometimes existing from the first appearance of pu berty. Girls need more careful clothing of the feet and legs than boys, no part of the body needing more careful protection; for chilling of the lower extremities causes greater danger to the pelvis and its organs, than exposure of the chest does to the lungs.
I am sure no protection of the body is more ne glected than. that given the feet of women, and espe cially of our young girls. If the winter hose be not of the heaviest kind in wool, thick cotton must be worn under the wool hose, with very warm, thick shoes, and leggings with overshoes should be added for out-door play and riding in a carriage.
Closing of the uterine canal by the flexion or doubling of that organ upon itself, and its being bent backward by pressure from constipated habits, or pressure from the clothing crowding all the organs in the abdomen and pelvis downward, will cause barrenness.
That intra-uterine congestion and irritation which induces the formation of hardened lymph, which fills the canal with a tenacious plug, if left to itself, is an effectual barrier to conception. We sometimes find the uterus, ovaries, and external organs imperfectly developed, remaining as in a child of ten or twelve years; and this may exist with or without menstrua tion. If this condition continues after twenty-five years, we may predicate with certainty the impossi bility of motherhood. I have known several in stances of this kind where there was good general physical development. Marriage in such cases, as in impotence with men, is permissible if there be full understanding and acceptance of all the facts and possibilities, but the slightest deception in this, as in anything where marriage is considered, is cul pable.