‘Such mental suffering and such misery’: Reproductive complications resulting from syphilis and gonorrhoea, 1880-1914

The Perceptions of Pregnancy blog, like the Researchers’ Network, aims to reach beyond boundaries and borders, and to facilitate an international and interdisciplinary conversation on pregnancy and its associated bodily and emotional experiences from the medieval to the modern. Today’s post on reproductive complications arising from syphilis and gonorrhoea is contributed by medical historian Anne Hanley.

In 1895 the medical practitioner and eugenicist, Arabella Kenealy, wrote a letter to the editor of the British Medical Journal, recounting a house call made to a heavily pregnant and syphilitic woman. According to Kenealy, the diagnosis was ‘indubitable’. The patient, ‘a wreck of a young woman’, had suffered three miscarriages in rapid succession, followed by the birth of a child who demonstrated clear symptoms of congenital syphilis. She had since suffered another two miscarriages and was again pregnant but hemorrhaging.

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