©Wellcome Library, London

These illustrations, from a 14th century version of Soranus' Gynaecology, depict a variety of foetal positions within the womb which is shown as an upside-down jar or vessel. In Medieval texts, the word vas (vessel) was used as a synonym for ‘woman'. In the top picture, a woman in labour is shown hanging onto a rope suspended from a bar. Soranus appreciated that infants did not always present head first, and in difficult labours, he recommended ‘podalic version' whereby a hand is inserted into the uterus and the baby drawn out feet first..

Top: Bodleian MS Laudian, 724, 97 recto. Bottom: British Museum MS Sloane, 249, folio 197 recto.

Source: Karl Sudhoff. ‘Drei noch unveröffentlichte Kindslagenserien des Soranos-Muscio aus Oxford und London'. Archiv für Geschichte der Medizin. Leipzig 1911.